a midsummer fest

Up with the early light, though the sun is obscured with cloud, I remember it is Juhannus and

… 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.

Read more from last year’s nostalgic post

For the first time in some years, yesterday afternoon husband, youngest daughter and I went to the Scandinavian Midsummer Festival at our Scandinavian Community Centre to see if we could find a little of that magic I always miss. We were very pleasantly surprised how the event had grown and how well attended it was. I loved the choir, the folk dancers, and the variety of colourful and beautifully made national costumes they wore as did the many volunteers and quite a few visitors. (How I wish my mother’s fit me.) We enjoyed samples of food and displays set up by each Nordic country celebrating their heritage and crafts.



The Viking Village was definitely the most impressive, put together with a lot of hard work by the Norwegian and Icelandic members. The village held a couple of boats, one just recently completed and made by hand, interesting tents with carved and detailed wood frames, upright looms in the prehistoric style, shields, helmets and weapons, and characters in Viking era costumes and jewelry enacting scenes of village life.

Other highlights for us were the Finnish birch bark woven crafts and wood objects, plus the Dane Steen Larsen and his reproduction of an 1830 European barrel 72 pipe organ that he built and which plays six different melodies.


So it was that a little of that nostalgia and pride for the traditions of the old country was nourished and satisfied in me. All of us people there celebrated midsummer in an emigrant-Nordic way far way from our roots. If you live in the Vancouver area and you are interested, the fest is still on today and is open to everyone.
Hauskaa Juhannusta! Happy solstice!

Some interesting related links:
June hardly sleeps **
In Scandinavia, Solstice Means Fun in the Midnight Sun
Solstice at the megaliths in Brittany**, something that I’d like to experience someday

** Edits: links no longer work and have been removed

June 21, 2009 in Culture, Ethnicity, Finland, Estonia & Finno-Ugric by Marja-Leena