white nights


Awake at 3:30 this morning, unable to get back to sleep, I made myself a soothing cup of hot cocoa (with goat’s milk and stevia) and sat at the table reading yesterday’s paper. Looking outside, to the northeast I could see a band of light contrasting against the dark blue lines of the mountain tops and the darker clouds above. As I sipped my drink, my eyes wandered to that ever brightening view more often than to the words on the paper.

I remembered then that today is the summer solstice, (or properly June solstice for it’s winter in the southern hemisphere). Memories of magical midsummer nights in Finland, Denmark and Sweden made me long for those white nights of the north, and to feel again that amazement with how joyful and energetic the people were. Celebrations rooted in pagan times abounded. It seemed like no one slept much, just soaking in the light, as if refueling after the long dark winter. How could you sleep when the sun hit your eyes where you lay in bed, with only sheer window coverings?, I thought the first time I visited as a teenager, grumpy from jet lag.

This is the time that most Finns start their summer holidays, their trips to summer cabins by serene lakes, leaving the cities behind. Businesses reduce to minimum, it’s as if the whole country slows down. How come here in Canada, a northern nation, we don’t celebrate midsummer night? Oh, the Scandinavians communities have their events in various cities this weekend, but is that all there is? Where is the magic? Even up in northern British Columbia where we lived a few years, there was no celebration, no sense of the ancient rituals of the seasons.

At 5:00 I crept back to bed with the light in my eyes, thinking I was not going to be able to sleep. But I dreamt of midnight sun glimmering through birch trees, shining on smooth lakes, of bonfires on beaches and smoking sauna chimneys. This, then, was my own private Juhannus ritual.

Hauskaa Juhannusta! Happy solstice, all!

Related posts:
When “the Sun Stands Still”
summer solstice 2004
midsummer nights 2005
midsummer dreams 2006
solstice memories 2007

June 20, 2008 in Culture, Finland, Estonia & Finno-Ugric, Home by Marja-Leena