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Juhannus From A Newbie

Photo by Gianmarco Crinieri

Having relatively recently moved to Helsinki, apart from the information I had read on the internet about culture and holidays, I had no precise information on how much some holidays are perceived compared to others. So, for example, I found myself wandering around the center during graduation period (so on June 4th) without understanding why some people were walking around the city elegantly dressed and with a bouquet of flowers in their hand or why nobody cared about Whit Sunday or "Helluntaipäivä" (June 5th) when my Google Calendar highlighted it as a religious holiday; as a result, I found myself a bit displaced by the weight that Finns give to the festivity.

In this case, however, we are talking about one of the most heartfelt holidays by the Finns, a bit like as if Christmas had moved and found accommodation in a more pleasant period and with less prohibitive temperatures, a bit like it happens in the southern hemisphere where it is celebrated on the beach.

In addition, in these weeks you can also attend one of the most particular events if you do not come from a country equally in the north, which in my case.

In short, if you have not understood, we are talking about the midsummer party or Juhannus as it is called in the local language. It falls on Saturday in the week between the 20th and 26th of June and is - as I mentioned before - particularly felt by the Finnish population who take advantage of these unusual long holidays to take refuge in the cottages by the lake which is a rather widespread fashion among the locals, pushed, even more, to leave the noise and chaos of the city by a particularly "green" anniversary and felt by the Finns as an opportunity to take refuge in the splendid nature that this country offers.

Consequently, if you arrive from the center of any of the big cities (could it be Helsinki, Turku, Espoo, the rule applies to everyone) in those days you will find yourself in front of completely empty metropolises, it will be just you and the sad seagulls for the lack of fresh fish or tourists to be pestered in the market square, or kauppatori.

The particular phenomenon I mentioned at the beginning of the article is none other than the midnight sun, which means that for a few weeks the sun will never set completely, making the days last almost forever, an event that invigorates the soul and pushes the citizens to celebrate as long as possible, to enjoy the many hours of light that summer offers before returning to the dark and tiring winter.

In fact, even from the beginning of June, it is easy to notice how the hours of darkness are very few and indeed that it is not actual darkness but a sort of twilight that "deceives" the night.

For those like me who are not used to this type of phenomena, sleeping - especially at the beginning - will be quite difficult without the necessary precautions; but a couple of excellent curtains are enough, and the problem is solved. In the worst case, it can be circumvented by supplementing with melatonin to help the sleep cycle.

Or you can make the most of these festive days and take advantage of your Finnish friends, using them to stay in their lakeside cottages. Go for walks in the woods, grill fish and makkara (typical sausage), and have a big bonfire on the beach that traditionally keeps evil spirits away.

If, on the other hand, you do not have friends from whom to take advantage of an escape from the city, you can always appreciate the free roads and the great general silence that characterizes the metropolis during these quiet days.

In short, whether you are a party animal or more introverted people, we all have the opportunity to draw something beautiful, or even just pleasant, from the feast of St. John, or Juhannus.


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