Five for Friday: Midsummer festivities
In Finland, Midsummer not only represents the annual turning point for the lengthening daylight, it also marks the unofficial arrival of warm summer weather.
Traditions surround the celebration of the summer solstice, with the longest day of the year typically spent with friends and family at a summer cottage away from the city, either partying or relaxing.
Nonetheless, nowadays, there is also a wide variety of alternative approaches to well-trodden Midsummer revelries.
So, without further ado, for this Friday preceding Midsummer, we are taking a brief break from our typical roll out of innovations. Instead, enjoy a quintet of ways to celebrate during this centenary year of Finland’s independence.
Having become the new standard for youngsters’ Midsummer, festival-goers will once again congregate for a three-day celebration far from the urban sprawl to enjoy a roster of artists from home and abroad.
“The festival is all about having a great program,” Juha Laitala, festival director explains. “We cherish the good time on the beach, as Kalajoen juhannus is not just another festival. With decades of experience, we know how to party.”
For an experience of a more mature nature, there’s an abundance of open air dance pavilions scattered around the beautiful Finnish countryside. A very popular meeting place during the warmer months, Midsummer dances are a particular highlight of the summer for many.
“Our dance pavilion, Nurmen Lava, was built in 1902, hence it is the oldest one still in operation,” says Ilkka Rautakorpi, the responsible organiser in Lions Club Lempäälä. “We are preparing the pavilion for Midsummer dances with traditional birch tree decorations.”
Back in the day, Midsummer was a very potent night and the perfect occasion for children to perform small rituals, and also especially for young maidens seeking suitors and fertility. This old-time spirit is elicited still in many places, such as this family-friendly Midsummer Bonfires event in Seurasaari Island not far from downtown Helsinki.
“The festival grounds in our island offer for example lots of fun workshops for children, as well as characteristic bonfires from different provinces of Finland,” tells Riikka Vilén from Seurasaari-säätiö.
Not everyone is fleeing the cities these days for Midsummer festivals. In recent years, this urban Midsummer city festival in Tampere has become a popular alternative to traditional goings-ons.
“All it takes to bring the Midsummer feeling to the heart of the city is great music and the festive atmosphere brought by cheerful people,” Rowan Rafferty, managing director of Nem Agency explains. “Even the restaurants involved are part of creating the good mood by decorating their terraces properly.”
Every year, expatriate Finns all over do their best to let it be known what the traditional Midsummer celebrations, such as lighting bonfires and bathing in saunas, are all about. This event in Berlin is but one of the many on offer during Finland’s centenary year.
“We welcome each and every one to explore Finnish midsummer traditions and enjoy a music programme that comes alive at the Finnish Embassy in Germany,” says ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde. “We will turn the inner court of the Nordic Embassies in Berlin into a summer landscape, where all the visitors will have a taste of the finest pieces of Finnish Midsummer including the scent of birch trees, delicacies and, of course, a sauna.”