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20 June 2011

Summer solstice, the longest day, the shortest night. 21.06.2011

 Hello everyone!

Summer solstice is within us every year, we all know it and we all enjoy it, especially Juhannus. Here is facts about Finnish culture and the summer solstice.

Before 1316, the summer solstice was called Ukon juhla, after the Finnish god Ukko. In Karelian tradition, many bonfires were burned side by side, the biggest of which was called Ukko-kokko (the "bonfire of Ukko"). 
After the celebrations were Christianized, the holiday is known as juhannus after John the Baptist (Finnish: Johannes Kastaja). Since 1955, the holiday is always on a Saturday (between June 20 and June 26). Earlier it was always on June 24. A lot of the celebration of midsummer takes place on midsummer eve, when many workplaces are closed and shops have to close their doors at noon.

In the Finnish midsummer celebration, bonfires (Finnish kokko) are very common and are burnt at lakesides and by the sea. Often two young birch trees (koivu) are placed on either side of the front door to welcome visitors. Swedish-speaking Finns often celebrate by erecting a midsummer or maypole (Swedish midsommarstång, majstång). 

An important feature of the midsummer in Finland is the white night and the midnight sun. Because of Finland's location spanning around the Arctic circle the nights near the midsummer day are short or non-existent. This gives a great contrast to the darkness of the winter time. The weather varies between years, the highest temperature is on average about 20°C (Southern Finland).

Many Finns leave the cities for Midsummer and spend time in the countryside. Nowadays many spent a few days there, and some Finns (who don't travel abroad) take their whole vacation in cottage. Rituals include bonfires, cookout, sauna and spending time together. Heavy drinking is also associated with the Finnish midsummer. 

It's also common to start summer holidays on Midsummer day. For many families the Midsummer is the time when they move to the countryside to their summer cottage by the sea or lake. Midsummerday is also the Day of the Finnish Flag. The flag is hoisted at 6 pm on Midsummer eve and flown all night till 9 pm the following evening. Finnish Canadians in the New Finland district, Saskatchewan, Canada celebrate Juhannus.

Happy Juhannus to everyone!

Tapani Isomäki
Kustavi, Finland

credit: Wikipedia