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Shining light on Finnish Midsummer

This week is Midsummer! Saga Raippalinna takes a look at what it really is about. "Finns cheer, eat, drink, play music, sing and dance."

As Midsummer day in Finland slowly turns to night, the sun continues to shine. People flow into the woods, heat up the sauna and beat their skin with freshly collected birch branches. When the heat becomes unbearable, they slip into the still cool lake for a swim. Standing outside barefoot, their skin steaming, Finns shed their social restrictions almost without noticing and start deep conversations with anyone within earshot. They move with nature and dance to a beat they’ve known since they were children themselves, or simply sit silently side-by-side, happy and content.

During the day, Finns collect wood and pile it up, joined by neighbours and strangers in building a bonfire by the water. It will be lit at midnight, when people gather round and watch as the flames take to the sky.

At this moment, everyone feels one with their ancestors. It is believed ghosts and spirits are present, as past mothers and fathers join with the living to admire the purifying powers of the Midsummer fire. Finns cheer, eat, drink, play music, sing and dance. It is the height of Finnish summer, the nightless night; a time to celebrate tradition, future and life itself.

The sauna is kept hot until every last one in the house has retired and in those early morning hours some girls will place their Midsummer spells. Naked or in their nightgown, unmarried maidens can be found walking alone in the forests, running through fields and jumping over ditches. Some collect seven or nine different flowers to place under their pillow and hope to discover the identity of their true love.

We Finns might be a less spoken folk, but maybe this is a trait that balances out our passionate, rich inner life – a life full of magic, love and hope for the better.

Published on 22.06.2017