Imagine a happy party under the midnight sun, when day and night are the same. Welcome to Juhannus, Finland’s celebration of the middle of summer. For a person coming outside of Finland, the neverending light and the customs and traditions around midsummer might be an acquired taste and something to get used to. If you’re wondering what Juhannus is all about, here are 10 things about it you should know.
When is Juhannus?
Juhannus is a festival that happens around the longest day of the year, which is usually the weekend closest to June 24. This is when Finns celebrate the start of summer and enjoy the endless daylight.
Juhannus started as a pagan celebration of the summer solstice before Christianity. The name “Juhannus” comes from the Christian saint John the Baptist (Johannes Kastaja in Finnish), whose feast day was the same as these old celebrations.
Nature, rest, and friends are important
During Juhannus, many Finns go to the countryside to escape the city. They go to their cottages by lakes or the sea to relax. Nature’s peace and the slower pace of life are important parts of the holiday. Juhannus is a time to spend with family and friends. People come together for the celebration, whether it’s a laid-back barbecue, singing and dancing around a bonfire, or quiet moments in the peace of nature.
Bonfires in Finland during the Midsummer
Kokko, or bonfires, are an important part of the Juhannus holiday. Large fires, often built near lakes or the ocean, create a magical atmosphere as their light bounces off the water. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but according to the old wisdom, they are a sign of protection and cleanliness.
Sauna is a Must
Going to the sauna is a typical Finnish tradition, and Juhannus is no different. The Finns like to steam in a sauna and then cool off in a nearby lake or the sea. Usually, they also make a “sauna whisk” (saunavihta) from birch branches and leaves to accompany them to the sauna. If you’re not familiar with the tradition of using a bath whisk, you can Google it for yourself. Even though it looks pretty brutal, it’s a great way of getting your blood pumping.
There is a hint of magic in Juhannus. It’s a time when old myths come back to life. Many Finns don’t necessarily believe in ancient myths and magic but still want to honor the old traditions just for sport. Old midsummer magic and beliefs include that you will see your future spouse if you look into a well or a pond during the midsummer night. Or if you gather flowers under your pillow before you go to bed, you will dream of your future spouse. And, of course, if you throw your shoe to a roof on a midsummer night, the shoe will point toward the direction where you will move in the future.
Summer Delicacies in Finland
The most traditional midsummer food is new potatoes, and dill served with some butter. Thanks to the thousands of lakes and the sea, fish and seafood are usually on the menu also. One such menu item is different kinds of pickled herring. Also, Finns love cooking food on the grill during the summer (grillikausi – grill season), and it’s not uncommon to serve grill-cooked sausage during Juhannus. Finnish nature is also full of berries; strawberries are a midsummer delicacy.
The “White Night”
During Juhannus, when the sun barely sets below the horizon, Finland has “white nights.” This means there are almost 24 hours of daylight, a natural event that gives the celebration a strange feel. The nights are much lighter and longer in the Northern Parts of Finland, but you can also experience the lightness in the South.
Juhannus in the Cities
Many people go to the country for Juhannus, but there are also events in the cities. There’s something for everyone, from concerts to city bonfires. Expect the cities to be quieter than usual since many people will be in the countryside for a more traditional Midsummer celebration.
Keeping the Tradition Alive
Even though times change, the core of Juhannus stays the same. It’s about enjoying the simple things in life, treating nature with respect, and enjoying the company of those you love. It’s a beautiful tradition that Finns love and want to keep going for as long as possible.
Juhannus is a unique Finnish holiday that shows how much joy summer brings, how much people love nature, and how important community is. It’s a time-honored tradition, a magical event, and an unforgettable experience. If you’d like to experience the magic of the Finnish midsummer party, ensure you are in Finland around the end of June.
Around the end of June, typically on the weekend closest to the 24th.
New potatoes with dill and pickled herring are popular choices.
While many do, it’s not compulsory. Some might prefer other activities.
They symbolize protection and purification.
Absolutely, tourists are welcome to join the festivities.