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Everything you need to know about Midsummer
2 minute read
two riders with their horses staring at the Midnight Sun

Credits:: Jani Kärppä

Midsummer is Finland’s main national holiday

A celebration of the summer solstice, it’s typically spent with friends and family at a summer cottage away from the city. And whether you want to party or relax, there are many ways to get in on the fun.

Finland is known for its summertime “white nights,” and Midsummer’s is the whitest of them all. Viewed as the official start of warm weather, Midsummer Eve at the end of June is when many Finns kick off their summer holidays. The Midnight Sun plays a major role in the festivities in the northern parts of Finland, but it doesn’t actually get dark in the south, either – hence Finland’s so-called white nights.

So, what do Finns do on Midsummer? Historically, Midsummer was a popular time for weddings, and many people cast fertility or love spells. These days, lighting bonfires and bathing in saunas are two popular ways to celebrate. Barbecuing, fishing and boating are also standard pastimes for those who spend midsummer at a country cottage.

a landscape view of the lake on a nightless night in Finnish Lapland
Credits: Antti Pietikäinen

Midsummer traditions, from bonfires to toasts

In the olden days, bonfires (or “kokko”) were lit during Midsummer to keep evil spirits away and ensure a good harvest. But making noise and getting tipsy has been part of Finland’s Midsummer celebrations through the ages. And not all in the name of fun – in the past, people believed loud behaviour would bring luck and drive away evil spirits.

a burning midsummer bonfire on the lake

Open-air dances in cities

Young people in cities have revived the open-air Midsummer dance traditions. In Helsinki, they mostly take place away from the city centre, such as on Seurasaari Island.

If you’re not into crowds, another reason to spend Midsummer in the city is the eerie urban atmosphere: the streets are virtually empty during the holiday.

a dining table full of food during a midsummer feast
Credits: Emilia Hoisko

Spells and folklore

Midnight Sun mythology is a huge part of Finnish folklore. Most beliefs centre on the longest day of the year, Midsummer (or “Juhannus”), at the end of June. One popular story, for example, involves a young maiden who puts seven flowers under her pillow on Midsummer night, resulting in her future fiancée appearing in her dreams. As previously mentioned, this time of year was once popular for casting love and fertility spells.

white anemones in the forest
Credits: : AdobeStock
a woman wearing an anadema collecting flowers
Credits:: Emilia Hoisko

Post-party night swims

Midsummer party traditions run deep, and countless events and festivals are held all over Finland. Since it’s hard to tell when the night’s over, parties often last well into the wee hours, and many cap them off with a nighttime swim with friends.

people swimming in the Baltic Sea at the coast of Helsinki under the Midnight Sun
Credits: Mariia Kauppi