Midsummer – just the word makes us Northeners warm at heart. We simply love the celebration of the start of the summer! When the sun (almost) never sets, the flowers bloom and kids start their summer vacation. The Nordic countries all have their celebrations – with some obligatory differences, of course. Which one do you prefer?
In Sweden, Midsummer Eve is always a Friday between 19 and 25 June. Confused? Just ask a Swede, they know. The day is a public holiday, and all Swedes flock to the countryside to celebrate in their summer houses. Often the day starts with people picking flowers for the May pole, which is a key for the rest of the celebration – the Swedes sing and dance around the pole, adults and kids alike. Together with the may pole, herring, new potatos and the local spirit «snaps» are elements not to be missed.
In Finland, you are also supposed to leave the city for Midsummer and spend the day and night in the countryside with your family or group of friends. Two key words for the Finnish celebration are sauna and bonfires In the old days, bonfires (“kokko”) were lit during Midsummer to keep evil spirits away and ensure a good crop for harvesting.
In Denmark, Midsummer is called «St. Hans», named after John the Baptist. The tradition of celebrating the eve of John’s birthday with a bonfire dates back to the 1600s. Although the holiday is nominally Christian, it is built upon pagan traditions. According to legend, summer solstice is when the witches gather in Germany – so the Danes have simply made witch-bonfires to keep the witches away. For tourists the sight of a person-like creature being burned on the bonfire may seem scary, but just relax – the witches that are burnt are made of hay or paper.
Norway also has its «St.Hans»-celebration, and many people go to the coast to see the bonfires (without witches) that are lit up along the shore. According to legend, if you pick 7 different types of flowers on the St.Hans-evening and put them under your pillow, you will dream about the person you will marry. Perhaps often joked with – but many people still do this!
In Iceland, Midsummer celebration is called Jónsmessa. This night is famous for its mystical powers. In Icelandic folklore, cows are supposed to know how to speak on this night, and seals can take human forms. Also it can mean good luck if you roll naked in the grass on this night!
As you can see, all the Nordic countries have their own – albeit similar – celebrations on Midsummer. What is common is that it is a celebration focusing on having a good time with your loved ones.