When the sun hardly sets and the nights are no longer dark (have you witnessed the Midnight Sun in real life?), it’s time to celebrate Midsummer’s Day in Finland, which occurs every last weekend of June — this year, on June 24. Midsummer’s Eve marks the official start of the warm summer weather, annually celebrated as a major national holiday and characterized by a playful sun casting golden hues over the country. Sporting a rich and colorful history, Finland is among the few places to witness this incredible astronomical event because it lies north of the Arctic Circle. So, get ready to set up a campfire and bring along outdoor speakers, marshmallows, and a group of friends for 24-hours of dancing festivities in the open air.
History of Midsummer Day
Besides Finland being the happiest country, it’s reportedly one of the most magical and historical places on Earth as well. Traditionally, Midsummer was a pagan summer festival of harvest and fertility. Initially, the day would be spent hosting parties, paying tribute to and honoring the Finnish god of thunder, Ukko, so that he would be happy and assure a good harvest. Ukko controlled the fall of rain and so they were obliged to please him.
After Christianity arrived in Finland, the Midsummer festival of the pagans became discreetly associated with Christian celebrations. Also called Juhannus, Midsummer’s Day is now celebrated in the memory of John the Baptist whose birthday is also celebrated during this time.
Midsummer’s Day is known for countless key traditions including Nightless Night, characterized by a belief in witches, fairies, and elves who descend on Earth (that’s why the night is lit!) to tease humans and predict their futures. Driven by this tradition, young people buy bouquets of seven or nine different flowers, place them under their pillow, and hope to dream about their future spouse. The Midsummer weekend is also popular for weddings, in the name of fertility.
Another tradition is hosting ‘kokko’ – a huge bonfire that’s placed near water, casting a stunning reflection on the crystal-clear lakes together with the hues of the Midnight Sun. Since the times of pagans, Midsummer Day in Finland is a lively and cheerful celebration that locals keenly await.
Midsummer Day timeline
In honor of the birth of St. John the Baptist, the feast day is established by the undivided Christian Church.
By the 6th century A.D, several churches start honoring St. John’s Eve and Christian priests hold three Masses in churches for celebration.
Across various countries, St. John’s Eve is celebrated as “a custom to carry lighted torches on Midsummer-eve, as an emblem of St. John the Baptist, who was 'a burning and shining light' and the preparer of the way of Christ,” according to “The Olio, Or, Museum of Entertainment, Volume 7."
Traditionally celebrated on a fixed day on June 24, the holiday is moved to Friday and Saturday between June 19 and June 26.
Midsummer Day FAQs
When is Midsummer in Finland?
Contrary to other countries, Midsummer is not celebrated on a fixed date in Finland. It’s on Friday and Saturday between June 19 and June 26, or the last week of June.
What is Midsummer Day?
It is a major national holiday, marking the start of summer, and is spent celebrating, dancing, drinking, and partying in the open air and at night.
How many countries celebrate Midsummer Day around the world?
Many countries celebrate the holiday, including Sweden, Canada, Norway, and Finland.
Midsummer Day Activities
Go to the bonfire
There are countless activities to do on a Midsummer's Eve in Finland, but attending that massive bonfire by the lake is a must! While you’re at it, dive into the crystal-clear lake for a swim at midnight when it’s still bright.
Cast a Midsummer spell
Midsummers in Finland are magical and that’s the best part of the day in this country. Try casting a spell, perhaps by going foraging for flowers in a meadow to place under your pillow to dream about your future husband/wife or help your love life.
Treat yourself to a Midsummer feast
Midsummer Day has a special menu. Fish, locally-grown strawberries, pickled herring, and open-fire pancakes, to mention a few, are some of the traditional Juhannus dishes.
5 Facts About Finland That You Didn’t Know
It’s the land of the Midnight Sun
The sun doesn’t set for 73 consecutive summer days while it doesn’t rise for 51 days in winter.
It’s also the land of aurora borealis
Aurora borealis, the polar lights, are seen regularly in Lapland and other parts of Finland.
Finnish is the hardest language!
Difficult and unique, Finns love their language so much that they celebrate it on April 9 every year.
More saunas than cars
Finland has a population of 5.4 million and has over 3 million saunas alone!
It rains 180 days a year
That’s right, it rains for half a year in Finland — no wonder Finns wait all year long for the season when the sun comes out and never sets!
Why We Love Midsummer Day
It’s astronomically breathtaking!
No doubt about it. Midsummer’s Eve in Finland is a rare sight with the Midnight Sun and aurora borealis lighting up the sky in dancing hues.
It’s consecutive days of sun, warmth, and no rain
A country that’s popular for igloos, hot steam baths in every home, and never-ending rain, Midsummer’s Eve is eagerly awaited to mark the start of the summer season.
It’s a sign of fertility and good fortune
Dating back to the days when pagans inhabited Finland, the concept of fertility and good fortune has long been believed in by most Finns. Apart from scheduling weddings on Midsummer Day, babies born in this time are also considered a good sign.
Midsummer Day dates