Midsummer Day, also known as Juhannus in Finland and St. John’s Day in some other countries, is the day when the sun at its highest point in the Northern hemisphere – the summer solstice. It usually takes place between June 19 and June 29 depending on the year. The night before the summer solstice is known as Midsummer Party.
Here you will read about my wonderful experience during this celebration in Finland. Finland takes Juhannus extremely seriously. So serious, that some say it can be a bigger deal than Christmas or the New Years Eve.
Juhannus? Where does the name come from?
Before 1300AC, the summer solstice was known by its original name: Ukon juhla or Ukko’s celebration in English. Ukko is the Finnish god of the Karelian tradition before Christianity arrived destroying all the old religion like it did in countless countries all over the world.
The celebration was always held on the same way: a bunch of huge bonfires were burned side by side and the biggest of them was Ukko-kokko (“Old Man Bonfire” in English). After the ceremonies were Christianized, the whole thing changed its name to Juhannus after John the Baptist, the famous St. John.
Even in Brazil we have celebrations after St. John, the well known Festa Junina where Brazilians gather around quermesses, usually in front of Catholic churches, to eat and drink.
Since 1955, this Finnish holiday has always happened on a Saturday (usually sometime between June 20th and June 26th). This year Finland celebrated the Juhannus on the 20th in the wonderful surroundings of Mikkeli while I was in town. Everyone celebrated the magnificent party with Aila and Heikki Alanko, the lovely owners of Löydön Kartano Oy and their family.
What do the Finns do to celebrate Juhannus?
So, this is the part where things get interesting.
Finns, even though they were Christianized a long time ago, still perpetuate the celebrations almost like old times, Ukko’s time.
Everybody in Finland rushes to their summer cottages with their families, prepares huge bonfires by the water, and eats and drinks like there’s no tomorrow. They burn the old to make room for the new.
Juhannus is a very symbolical festivity and a must-see experience for everybody.
My experience was unique and special, mainly thanks to the wonderful people around me on that day. The lovely family that owns one of the best cottages in the region, Löydön Kartano, made everything escalate from good to memorable to wonderful in no time.
Even though I was basically a stranger at the festivities, just a girl that neither speaks Finnish nor is familiarized with any of the traditions, I fit in just fine. The Finnish people took me in with no questions asked, gave me love, alcohol, and food! Can I ask for more? I don’t think so. Pure Finn love.
The life of a travel blogger can sometimes be lonely, but moments like the Juhannus festival are totally worth it. I felt like I was home with my Finnish family.
A huge BBQ opened to the guests of Löydön Kartano. The fire was burning. The food was cooking. There were plenty of sausages, beer, cider, potatoes and sweets to go around.
Entire families, friends, and pets were all in attendance. Aida and Heikki provided me the full experience of a perfect Juhannus, and for that I am forever thankful. They were so amazing. If I could choose a Finnish mom, I would choose Aida.
After the ceremony, Heikki’s brother and niece invited me to their home and together we cooked an elaborate meal with new potatoes, meat and a bunch of other great ingredients.
The night ended with a long talk about life experiences, the diversity and wonders of different cultures, and the unbreakable glasses and mugs from Heikki’s brother’s ceramic factory.
I went back to my cottage long past midnight and there was still sunlight in the sky. I was so happy with the day and can’t even express my happiness in words. Juhannus is such a powerful and magical celebration that not even Christianity could overshadow.
How can you experience Juhannus next year?
If you want to go to the same place that Fotostrasse went, you can contact either Aila or Heikki on their facebook, mention that you saw this post and check the availabily of cottages. They have places of all shapes, sized and prices. Or you can just book directly from this blog and help us a bit.
They offer cottages for one person to cottages for 6 people with private saunas. And believe me, you will get addicted to your own sauna. After more than 20 straight days in Finland, I am missing it now that I am back home in Berlin.
Löydön is perfect for a relaxing getaway even if it is during the other seasons of the year. It is a peaceful, green place by the lake. I like to describe it as a Finnish paradise.
If you trust us and want to book your next stay there, go ahead and use the comment box below to add your thoughts about the lovely town. We’d appreciate it.
Fotostrasse went to Mikkeli thanks to Finnair, Visit Finland, Onnibus and Visit Mikkeli and it was fantastic.
And thanks to Rebecca Sunshine for her editing contribution.