Marja-Leena Rathje
Home ::: Midsummer nights

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 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

Marja-Leena | 21/06/2005 | 6 comments
themes: Culture, Finland, Estonia & Finno-Ugric


Sounds wonderful! I'd love to visit those northern countries someday, especially at this time of year. Hauskaa Juhannusta, Marja-Leena.

Thanks Amy! My thoughts are much in Finland, though we're not really celebrating here in Canada. Are you doing anything special, something a touch pagan, perhaps?

Wonderful memories. I checked Wikipedia yesterday about the summer solstice and there were stories about the celebrations in northern Europe. Wonderful that you got to be there and experience them.

Hi leslee! Yes, those are special memories! Isn't it a little sad that a lot of the old traditions did not continue in North America, except for some pockets here and there, mostly amongst recent immigrants. When I was a child, the Finnish people got together some years at someone's cottage for bonfires, songs, good food and drink.

What a fabulous journey - no wonder that you are left with such vivid memories.

By the way, M-L, did you know that they are rebuilding Stonehenge?

Anna, no I did not know that this was happening, though it sounds like more of a re-creation. Did you see this story on BBC - the stones may have come from a quarry in Wales. I wonder if that group would care to haul the rocks 240 miles instead of 40?!