Marja-Leena Rathje
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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

Marja-Leena | 20/06/2008 | 17 comments
themes: Culture, Finland, Estonia & Finno-Ugric, Home


Marja-Leena: I love the energy that comes with these day-for-nights, though we don't get them so much here... Alaska. People were out shingling their roof at 11:30 pm.

Wistfulness for the old ways. Not surprising for they are beautiful. Hauskaa Juhannusta!

Hauska Juhannusta to you, too, M-L! Our local community is having an arts and music festival on Bay Street, right near the Hoito.

Pica, you've spent time in Alaska?! Yes, the light would be energizing there. The only drawback is the winter, though the snow brightens.

Anna, yes, it must be a sign of impending old age! Some Brits celebrate around Stonehenge and other such sites. Have you ever taken part?

Thanks, Black Peter! I read about your celebrations in Thunder Bay at northshorewoman's blog, do you know it? Our Scandinavian community also has festivities tonight and all weekend. I'd hoped to go to some of it but this weekend is suddenly busy with company and family stuff going on!

I thought of you the other day as my husband and I sat having lunch next to table at which two men were deep in a conversation in a language that didn't seem familiar to my husband, but after a short while, I said, I bet they are talking in Finnish. I only hesitated because one of the speakers didn't quite speak the same way as the other. So, after a glass of wine, I worked up the courage to ask them what language they were speaking, and they were speaking Finnish, but one of the speakers happened to be from the Swedish-speaking part of Finland.... Anyway this is a long way to say Hauska Juhannusta!

Maria, how ever did you guess that? Thanks for the story and thinking of me, and for the Juhannus greeting.

Hauskaa Juhannusta!
I am up early in my morning reading your blog because the light has woken me and I feel the need to make some pagan tribute to the solstice...

Rosie, thank you. I hope you found that soulful tribute! Waking up early is rather fun at this time of year. Right now I should be sleeping but I'm still wired from a busy day and I see we have a full moon too!

No, I didn't know about Taina's blog, M-L, but it strikes me that with her boundless energy, she would also be blogging. Thanks for the tip!

Oh, and a belated Hauska St. Urhoan Paivaa to you, while we're at it! {mischievous grin}

I think one of the problems in much of Europe is the long days of summer often seem to be out of sync with the weather at solstice, June is frequently still chilly and grey and wet. Muddy miserable Glastonbury festivals come to mind!

I love the sound of those crayfish and schnapps suppers in summerhouses going on into the night in Scandinavia.

But you had your own private celebration anyway...

Black Pete, thanks for the Urhonpäivä wishes, heh!

Lucy, yes, the weather is one reason why I wonder why it's called midsummer. I guess we were lucky those few times we were in the nordic countries. But to me it's mostly about the incredible light.

Happy belated solstice, Marja-Leena! It's bright here early in the morning, too. I find myself waking at around 4 or so. If I'm lucky I fall asleep again until I have to get up for work. It's crazy here in business where everyone takes off different vacation time all summer so it's a constant shifting around. Better if we all just took off for a month. Sigh. I don't get that much vacation time. But at least after I get out of work, there are still several hours of daylight left! I love the summer. Hope it doesn't go by too fast...

Thanks Leslee! Me too about sleep! I think North America is all like that regarding vacations and it gets tough when so many places are so lean staffed already. Good that you made that move closer to your work so you have more time to enjoy the long summer evenings.

Well, I think I guessed they were speaking Finnish because I grew up speaking Hungarian, and though the two languages are not like Italian and Spanish, to take one example from a family, they are supposed to have something in common in terms of grammar and such. It was just something like an echo in their speech that made me think it had to be Finnish....

Maria, I'm quite surprised that you can detect a certain something in common. I know they are both part of the Finno-Ugric language family, but thought they were quite far apart in actual practice. Good for you! I don't think I've heard much Hungarian so I'm not sure if I'd notice the similarity, and I don't have a great ear for language anyway. It would be interesting to have a conversation...

I keep coming back to look at this. What a magical thing is mid-summer and how well you have captured it in your photograph and what you write.

Joe, thanks, I'm glad this worked, especially because the photo was not taken in mid-summer.