|Kimball - June 22, 2009
Johannus a high point on the Finnish calendar comes
exactly six months after Christmas, when the interminable
nights of winter have given way to the white nights of the
Finnish summer. In the north of Finland, Midsummer marks the
peak of the exotic appeal of the Arctic, as the sun remains
above the horizon all night.
Lighting a bonfire is the high point of Midsummer night.
Originally, bonfires were only part of the eastern Finnish
Midsummer In the Finnish midsummer celebration tradition,
bonfires (kokko) are burnt at lakesides. celebrations.
Midsummer fires are lit all over Finland, except in the
coastal areas that are the stronghold of the Swedish speaking
Finns, these are supplanted by a maypole tradition,
transferred from Sweden, and pickled herring. The origin and
the meaning of this tradition is not exactly known, but there
are some theories. According to one of them, the pole could
have been a representation of Scandinavian fertility rites
dating back to pagan times. Another theory is, that it was
introduced to Scandinavia by Hanseatics in medieval times.
The history of Midsummer celebrations date back to pagan
times. In East-Finland, it was called "the celebration of Ukko"
(Ukko was the Finnish god of thunder, the most important of
the Finnish gods, because he created rain, the essential
ingredient for a good harvest).
When Finland was Christianized, the holiday was named after
John the Baptist (Johannes) in order to give a Christian
meaning to the pagan holiday.
Midsummer used to be celebrated on June 24, and before
that, of course, it was governed by the exact day of the
In 1955, the Finnish government decided that Midsummer was
reason enough to guarantee the work force a nice long weekend,
and so ruled that the event would be celebrated on the
Saturday between June 20 and 26 - turning the Friday into a a
national day off for Midsummer's Eve.
The same is done in Sweden.
In Finland, Midsummer is also "Flag Day", it is the only
day when the flag is allowed to be flown all night long,
instead of being taken down at 9 pm, as is the norm.