Why Juhannus matters

While ‘Juhannus’ is no longer a religious holiday, it is celebrated almost religiously in Finland. For a couple of days in June, the streets of Helsinki become almost ghostly as Finns escape their daily routines to spend a few sleepless nights far away from the city centre. Last weekend families and friends met yet again for a celebration of light around the thousands of lakes and on the many islands that the Finnish landscape has to offer - informs helsinkitimes.

Finns are known by many to be prudent and punctual, but Juhannus is a holiday when relaxation is key. Life as we know it comes to a halt – outside of the emergency services and the occasional bar and restaurant it is rare to find anyone working. Instead of in offices, you will find Finns in saunas all around the country. Some even dare to take a dip in the water despite the chilling temperatures after an exceptionally cold spring.

Juhannus, also known as Midsummer, was originally a celebration of not only light, but also fertility. While such traditions date back to so-called pagan times, Catholic celebrations of the birth of John the Baptist have subsequently taken place on the same date as Midsummer’s day. It is indeed from the Finnish name of John the Baptist, that is Johannes Kastaja, that the word Juhannus is derived.

Today, few Finns commemorate John the Baptist during their Midsummer celebrations. There are, however, other age-old traditions that remain incorporated into the festivities. These include the aforementioned sauna, as well as, and perhaps more surprisingly, dancing.

Midsummer celebrations do not solely incorporate typically Finnish traditions, however. Originally begun as an attempt to kill evil spirits, the now famous midsummer bonfire is a tradition that has made its way to Finland from the east in the early twentieth century. Simultaneously, the Swedish-speaking community in Finland, particularly on the Åland islands, continue to celebrate midsummer in a traditionally Swedish way, by erecting a flower-decorated maypole on Midsummer’s Eve.

Midsummer’s Eve is sometimes, mistakenly, thought to be celebrated during summer solstice, which is the longest day of the year and one during which the sun barely sets in Finland. This year, however, summer solstice fell on Wednesday 21 June, a few days before Midsummer’s Eve. Yet, while Juhannus is a celebration of light, the exact date of the summer solstice matters little. Rather, for most Finns, Juhannus marks a sneak preview into the upcoming holiday period.

Nicole Berglund

Read other news on the city site of Helsinki.

Midsummer_celebrations Finland
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
4 views in december
I recommend
No recommendations yet


Post your comment to communicate and discuss this article.

Police suspect a fire that destroyed a flat in Helsinki Monday night was ignited by a Molotov cocktail thrown through a window. No one was hurt in the incident. Authorities are investigating a case of suspected arson and attempted murder in Helsinki related to a fire that broke out shortly before 8 pm Monday, ravaging an apartment in the city's Käpylä neighbourhood. Police suspect that a burning Molotov cocktail, also known as a petrol bomb, was thrown thr...
The ministry also wants the national communications regulator to determine whether Trafi's other consumer services can be safely restored on Wednesday. The Ministry of Transport and Communications has asked the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority Ficora, to assess data privacy and security on the web services of the Finnish Transport Safety Agency, Trafi. The request follows a recent public backlash to Trafi's decision to open an online database wh...
Taking a train between Finland and Estonia will be possible by Christmas 2024, says the entrepreneur behind one of two massive tunnel projects being planned. Last week the FinEst Bay Area Helsinki-Tallinn tunnel project received 100 million euros from a Dubai-based construction group ARJ Holding – the first external financing made towards the estimated 15-billion-euro effort. Peter Vesterbacka - a man who made a fortune as a marketing boss at mobile gaming...
Several protest marches took place in Helsinki on Thursday evening. Police intervened to forcibly remove swastika flags from Neo-Nazi demonstrators. Police said on Thursday that they will open an investigation into neo-Nazis flying swastika flags in downtown Helsinki. Four protesters had reportedly been taken into police custody. Two processions made their way through Helsinki city centre Thursday evening. The neo-Nazi Kohti vapautta ('toward freedom') dem...
Most of Friday’s papers focus on Thursday's gala at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki where Finland's movers, shakers and honourees were invited to celebrate the nation’s 101 years of independence. Traditionally, media attention has centered on the best-dressed guests and this year was no exception. According to tabloid Ilta-Sanomat, among the most elegant invitees this year was MP Jaana Pelkonen, who wore a bright yellow sleeveless dress by French desig...
Helsinki handed over five decommissioned trams on Monday, two of which will make their way to the Mikkeli city centre for display. Helsinki City Transport (HKL) handed over five antique trams to new owners on Monday after a competition to see where the decommissioned vehicles would be best suited. The HKL competition prompted 94 applications from across the country to receive the trams free of charge. Three of the trams will remain in Helsinki, while two w...
People in Finland are prescribed more antibiotics than the EU average, police warn of neo-Nazi marches and the Finland 100 satellite blasted off. Finnish medical patients use broad-spectrum antibiotics more commonly than the EU average, even though bacteria in Finland are not especially resistant to antibiotic treatments. Daily Helsingin Sanomat writes that attacking a large number of different bacteria at once is all too common, and may lead to resistance...
This year's Finnish National Prize went to a rock star, a fashion designer, a film director and others for their contributions to cultural life in Finland. The Finnish National Prize, an annual cultural award from the Ministry of Education and Culture, went to Henry "Remu" Aaltonen, the drummer and vocalist of the 1970s band Hurriganes; the fashion designer behind Ivana Helsinki, Paola Suhonen; and Academy Award nominated director Selma Vilhunen. This year...
Artist's impression of the proposed Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel
Dubai engineering solutions giant ARJ Holding Ltd is investing €100 million in the Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel project, tunnel designer Peter Vesterbacka announced at a press conference on Monday. Mr Vesterbacka, chief of FinEst Bay Area, the group behind the tunnel project, pointed out the total cost of the tunnel stands at €15 billion, with an investment period of 30 years; the tunnel itself has a projected life span of 120 years, he said. Finest Bay Area Le...