This weekend saw Juhannus celebrated, the midsummer festival in Finland. It is one of those much anticipated celebrations in Finland which seems to mark the start of Summer for the locals. Many Finns will celebrate Juhannus at their summer cottages with a Midsummer sauna, bonfire and plenty of alcohol.
Jimmy and I decided this year to check out the Seurasaari Midsummer Bonfires on Seurasaari Island about a 20 minute bus ride from the centre of Helsinki. We joined up with a group event organised through Internations as this was our first time to Midsummer and thought it would be a great way to meet some new people and enjoy the night as part of a group. We met the organiser in the city and she gave us a ride to Seurasaari where we met a couple of others just in time to see the lighting of the first bonfire at 6:00pm.
Seurasaari is the home of the Open Air Museum a collection of historic buildings from various periods and regions from throughout Finland’s history, so is quite an appropriate place to celebrate such an ancient tradition. The pathways leading to the main festivities area are lined with various stalls selling handicrafts and other mid-summer souvenirs, as well as a smattering of food stalls.
The celebration itself is very traditional with lots of people in period costume and many symbols of this ancient tradition, one of which is all the girls wearing garlands of flowers or birch in their hair. One of the traditions is for young girls to collect 7 different wild flowers and place them under their pillow to dream of their future spouse. The main festivities start with a procession of Finnish flags from the entry bridge to the main festival area, where the celebrations begin with all sorts of singing and folk dancing and even a wedding. At 7:20pm a children’s bonfire is lit on the Bonfire shore and later at 10:00pm the main bonfire is lit by the bridal couple, after which the folk dancing and tangos continue into the white night.
If you ever find yourself in Helsinki at midsummer, then get along to the Seurasaari Midsummer Bonfires and celebrate like a Finn.
Even if you aren’t here for midsummer the island is open all year with the buildings closed only in winter so it is worth a visit to enjoy the history of Finland in one place.