Midsummer nights

Many summers ago my husband, our two little girls and I were traveling by car and ferries through Germany to Denmark, Sweden, Finland and back again to Germany before flying home to Canada. The night we arrived in Denmark we went to friends for a delightful family dinner in their home. Afterwards we were invited to come with them to a lovely big midsummer’s party at the gracious manor-like home of our friend’s company manager. At midnight everyone walked down to the coastal beach to see the many bonfires lining the shore – a magical scene.

The next evening we were in Sweden in a little town by the sea, wondering why the town was strangely empty and quiet. Walking around we soon heard music and merriment in a park on the outskirts where we found everyone celebrating Midsummer’s in a fairground theme including something like a maypole. Our children loved the rides and lively music.

In Finland the next night we again enjoyed a Midsummer’s celebration, actually Juhannus (St. John’s Day) with bonfires on beaches and young birch branches tied to posts everywhere. Everyone with a summer cottage was out there with family and friends. According to Virtual Finland, “the interminable nights of winter have given way to the white nights of the Finnish summer. Midsummer, celebrated at the summer solstice, has been very important since pagan times, especially in northern Europe, where the difference between the dark and the light seasons is particularly dramatic. In the north of Finland, Midsummer marks the peak of the exotic appeal of the Arctic, as the sun remains above the horizon all night.”

Obviously the actual celebration dates are rather flexible in each country for convenience, and our family struck lucky to enjoy it three times in three countries where it is a major annual event. It’s strange to me that it’s called midsummer, when it’s really the beginning of summer, especially in the North. Sadly though, from now forth the days are starting to get shorter. Those white nights are truly unforgettable!

If interested, you might like to read more about this in last year’s post, and at Answers.com. In Britain, Stonehenge is open again for solstice celebrations.

Hauskaa Juhannusta! Happy Midsummer’s!

UPDATES: Stonehenge in Pictures at BBC, and this article in National Geographic

June 21, 2005 in Culture, Finland, Estonia & Finno-Ugric by Marja-Leena