After many years, we are back in Finland for Midsummer celebrations and the nightless night. The weather wasn't co-operating with us in the beginning, but we were jet lagged anyway, so we were OK with that. Finally the winds and the rain stopped on Saturday, so we headed out to meet some of our friends at their summer house, and started to get into some midsummer spirit.
TRADITIONS OF MIDSUMMER
Midsummer (Juhannus) is celebrated in Finland on the week of summer solstice. The celebrations will start on Friday, and for many, this means the start of a summer vacation. This weekend people will enjoy the nightless nights at their summer houses which are usually located by lakes or the sea. The sun will stay up all night, so if the weather is good, Finns will sit outside eating and drinking even in the night time. The celebrations will continue through the weekend and most businesses will be closed.
Traditionally, Finns decorate their summer cottages by putting up branches from birch trees by the door way. In some Swedish speaking areas a midsummer pole, or a maypole, might be built in the village. Another way to use birch trees at midsummer is in the saunas. Saunas are an important element of midsummer and every summer house in Finland has one. Traditionally people will dip into the lake or the sea in between the sauna session, and sauna vihta made out of birch branches is used to stimulate the skin in the heat.
In some parts of Finland they will also burn juhannuskokko, a bonfires which are built by the lake side. According to old beliefs, the fires will keep away all the bad spirits. People used to think that the nightless nights will make spirits restless so that they will start to wander around. It was also believed that by celebrating loudly (which included heavy drinking) the spirits would stay away.
Over time there have been many beliefs and traditions practiced during midsummer nights. In most of the old folk magic rituals, young maidens can do different things to divine their future, or ensure they get married and are fertile. There are many different ways to do the rituals, but in some of the most popular ones, the maid must collect seven different flowers from seven different fields and then put them under the pillow for the night. During the night, the future husband will appear in the maiden's dream. To ensure yourself good luck in marriage, you can go out in the midsummer night, find a field with some morning mist, and roll around on it naked. Much of the magic includes nudity or is somehow connected with sauna culture.
If you can hear the cuckoo in the midsummer night, you can count how many years it will take to find a spouse from it. If there is no cuckooing at all, the spouse will be found in the same year.
in addition to luck with finding a spouse or fertility, there are also some magics that will predict success in future crops.
This midsummer we didn't do any magical rites. We sat with our friends talking and laughing, eating well and drinking some wine. Of course we also sat in the sauna at midnight and dipped into the chilly ocean water. It was such a great midsummer and it felt good to be back in Finland after such a long time.