Although Midsummer in Finland, or Juhannus as it is known in Finnish, does share some qualities with its Nordic neighbours. The Finnish ‘nightless’ nights provide an unforgettable backdrop to the summery festival, and nature in Finland is at its lushest bloom around that time.
Most people are familiar with the concept of Midsummer, the celebration of summer solstice that is observed around the world, however Finnish Midsummer carries its own magic and memorable traditions. And not a maypole in sight!
In this post we will share some of the magical elements of Finnish Midsummer to give you a little insight into one of Finland’s most popular festivals and how you could recreate some of the fun yourself.
Midsummer in Finland is celebrated on the Saturday between the 20th and 26th of June. Midsummer used to be a celebration of Ukko, the ancient Finnish god of weather and harvest, to ensure a robust harvest season.
Today the celebrations and very short night-time hours means that parties are an essential part of the holiday! Since the beginning of the tradition, it was believed that the louder the celebrations were, the further evil spirits would stay, and the drunker the people, the better the harvest. Different spells and magic were considered a pivotal part of Midsummer early on, and some remain popular to this day.
Where do you go for Midsummer?
Finns will leave their towns and cities and retreat to their summer cottages. More than half a million summer cottages exist in Finland (bear in mind that there are only 5.5 million Finns) so getting into nature to enjoy the magical bright evenings in the forest or a midnight (skinny) dip in the lake is a must.
Families spend the festival enjoying saunas, games and special summer dishes at their cabins; it’s the perfect start the longer summer holidays ahead.
So what are Finnish Midsummer traditions?
One of the oldest traditions of Finnish Midsummer is juhannustaika, magic rituals. It is believed that Midsummer to be a particularly potent one, and most of the rituals performed on Midsummer are centered around the idea of finding the perfect partner.
To do this a young woman would pick seven different wildflowers from a field and place them under their pillow to see the face of their chosen one in their dreams.
In another, the girl or woman (boys feel free too) peeks into a well at midnight whilst naked, to see the face of their suitor in the reflection. Green fern is believed to only bloom that night, so if you have any at hand you can expect to be lucky in love.
The bonfire is perhaps the most iconic image of the Finnish Midsummer celebration. When the night finally begins to set late in the Midsummer evening, Finns light a bonfire by the water or on the water (carried by a raft). The bonfire tradition was originally born as an attempt to keep evil spirits at bay.
What would a Finnish celebration be without a sauna? Juhannussauna, the Midsummer sauna, traditionally took place during the day so the bathers would be refreshed for the special nightless Midsummer night and ready to perform magic rituals.
Today, Finns heat up the sauna at any time during the Midsummer weekend. A traditional vihta, made from birch branches and used to beating one’s own back with, is an important part of the Midsummer sauna experience.
Juhannuskoivu, the Midsummer birch, is both a decoration and a belief. Birch tree branches were traditionally cut down and hung on the sides of the front door on Midsummer to keep spirits away and bring fertility and good health to the house.
Today, branches are simply hung and laid on doorsteps to decorate the house with the tree that represents Finnish nature and Midsummer best.
Flowers play an important part in Midsummer in Finland, from the spells cast with freshly picked wildflowers to the crowns adorning the heads of both children and adults. Like many Finnish Midsummer traditions, the flower crown was originally believed to attract love and good fortune.
The person making the crown was supposed to keep completely quiet during the process and lay the crown by their pillow to ensure they would see the face of their true love in their dreams.
Today, most Finns make and wear the crowns for a much simpler reason: they’re pretty and fun to make.
Celebrating the Finnish Midsummer
Whilst we may not have access to a well or a sauna by a lake, there are some really fun ideas here that you can try wherever you live.
Midsummer in Finland is filled with magic, nature, and good spirit. It represents unwinding, spending time with family and friends, and celebrating the beginning of summer. We think we should all take a little inspiration from this festival… be careful with those bonfires though!