A Finnish Midsummer Celebration
On June 23rd, Midsummer was celebrated in Finland. For Finns, this holiday, which is connected to summer solstice, the longest day of the year, is just as important as Christmas. This isn’t so surprising when you know how short days are here in winter. In the south of Finland, days get as short as 5 hours. In the north, the sun doesn’t even rise for almost 2 months. Salla Paajanen, head of Metrohm Nordic in Finland, invited me to spend Midsummer with her and her family in their lakeside cottage in the countryside.
Midsummer in Finland is all about making the most of the long summer days, knowing that the dark, sunless days of winter will surely come. The Midsummer celebration typically lasts not just one day, but an entire weekend, during which families gather in the countryside to spend this special time of the year together. Salla and some of her siblings and cousins with their partners and offspring came together in southeastern Finland at their family’s lakeside cottage in the forest.
Going to the cottage means living the simple life for a few days: Finland is generally sparsely populated, and the isolated cottages are generally not connected to the public water system. Salla’s cottage has dry toilets in sheds a few meters from the cottage and a gas-heated outside shower that takes water from the lake. The cottage is crowded with the extended family, so there’s not a lot of room to retreat for a quiet moment alone. But no one’s here to be alone: everybody looks forward to these few days a year when the time seems to stand still all over Finland and the extended family can come together.
The Midsummer weekend is a very relaxed time, which is spent talking, playing board games, and eating together. When the weather allows it, people spend some time on the lake in small boats and go to swim. Salla and her family love the outdoors, and there’s no better place than the summer cottage as a starting point for a hike.
The sauna is an essential part of Finnish life, and this doesn’t stop on Midsummer: cottages are equipped with a sauna, where you relax at 70 to 100 °C for a few minutes before taking an outside shower with a view of the lake, or taking a swim in the lake if you’re not afraid of cold water.
On the eve of Midsummer, most families light bonfires at their summer cottages. Because there was such strong wind, unfortunately, we couldn’t do it this year. The strong winds caused power cuts throughout large parts of the country, including our cottage. But with days that seem to last forever, the absence of electrical light is just a minor concern. And as long as the wood-fired sauna still works, everyone is happy.