Midsummer, in Finnish Juhannus, is usually on a Saturday between June 20 and June 26 when the summer solstice is celebrated. In Finland, among other countries, a bonfire is lit at the eve of midsummer and visiting the sauna is also part of the program.
Midsummer Festival in Finland
Midsummer and midsummer eve are celebrated in the whole of Finland. For most people, Juhannus celebrations also mark the start of the annual holidays and families go for a trip to enjoy the festivities in their summer cabins in the countryside.
Those, who stay in the cities, can participate in the midsummer programs organized by the towns that include a bonfire, music, beer, and later on, you can go to the sauna at home.
History of Juhannus
The Finnish name of Midsummer comes from Ukon juhla (Ukko’s celebration). Ukko is one of the Finnish Gods, the god of the sky, weather, harvest and thunder in Finnish mythology. Later, the festival was called juhannus after John the Baptist (in Finnish: Johannes Kastaja).
Midsummer was a unique and potent night for centuries. Especially young women practiced small rituals to help to find the best suitor or boost their fertility. One of these traditions was that naked young maidens bent over the rim of a well to peek the reflection of their future husband.
Also, will-o’-the-wisps were believed to appear at midsummer night, particularly to finders of the fern in blooms, considered mythical flower in the Nordic and Baltic mythology, and marking a treasure.
Another tradition still continues nowadays. Unmarried women collect seven different flowers and place them under their pillow to dream of her future husband. Not sure how well it works, but we have friends who kept this tradition and they are happily married now, so probably worth a try.
Midsummer Eve Bonfire
Bonfires (in Finnish kokko) are a very common part of the celebrations. They are built and burned at lakesides, riversides and by the sea on Juhannus eve. We have celebrated Juhannus in Finland numerous times, mostly in and around Joensuu and Rovaniemi. Here are some photos of the celebrations.
In Rovaniemi, the Juhannus bonfire is built on the local beach, opposite to the center. I brought you some photos from the previous two celebrations.
The weather is absolutely unpredictable in Finland even during the summer. One year, everyone wears zillions of layers and it is still cold and humid (luckily the rain stopped before the bonfire was lit!), another year you can swim on the beach before the celebration begins.
In general, dress warmly for Juhannus! Unless you are heading to the sauna 😉
Probably it is not surprising, visiting the sauna is part of the midsummer celebrations as well as part of everyday life. We usually prepare ‘vihta’ (a bouquet from young birch branches) for the sauna during the afternoon, and we will use it to refresh our skin and circulation when later having a sauna. Vihta can be made during any time of the summer, not only for this night of course.
In Finland, these boat saunas are very popular during the summer. One was parking next to the beach as well. It is possible to rent one, but if you can, time your sauna experience before or after Midsummer – the prices will be much lower I promise!
White Night and the Midnight Sun
Other specialties of Finnish midsummer celebrations are the white nights and the midnight sun. It is the most magical in Lapland, where the sun doesn’t set for several weeks (especially in the north). The constant brightness is a uniques experience for visitors and locals as well.
During the last years, we celebrated midsummer in Rovaniemi, and we can recommend it to anybody, you want to spend this uniques night around the Arctic Circle.
More about Finland: Things to Do in Rovaniemi in Summer | Activities in Lapland in Summer | Finland Road Trip Itinerary | Rovaniemi in Winter | Lapland Road Trip Itinerary | Best Cities to Visit in Finland |