I’m going to be honest with you. I love Finland. I love Finns, Finnish nature, Finnish culture, and to some extend, Finnish food too. What I am not particularly fond of is Finnish Midsummer (Summer Solstice). The fact that someone purposedly travels to a mosquito-infested area, just to experience a “traditional midsummer” in the countryside, remains another inexplicable finnish mystery to me. And it is not only the mosquitoes that put me off. The weather in June has this tendency of being on the cool side. And this year, the tendency is far too obvious.
I know that Midsummer is a very important celebration for Finns, almost as important as Christmas, but outdoor grilling while sleet is falling from the sky? Sorry. Not my idea of fun. And don’t get me wrong! I am always looking forward to visiting the family’s summer cottage, but only when the temperature reaches a comfortable 20 degrees and mosquito population reduces by 75%, which normally occurs by mid July. Before that, I’d rather stay in Helsinki, close to my central heating and comfy bed.
Thus, you can imagine my enthusiasm, when the family’s CEO, after some serious consultations with the head of the board of directors (wife and daughter, respectively), announced their decision that this year’s midsummer will be celebrated in Helsinki.
But how do you celebrate midsummer in Helsinki? The city’s Tourist Office suggests a visit to Seurasaari Open Air Museum (a mini version of Stockholm’s Skansen), where summer solstice is being celebrated for 60 years now. We didn’t have any reason to doubt them, so we waited until the downpour came to an end, put our winter jackets on (have I already mentioned how much I love Finnish summers, too? :-)) and off we went.
We had to leave the car quite far away from Seurasaari (note for future visits: take the bus, instead). While walking towards Seurasaari island, we were joined by lots of other people heading the same direction. They looked perfectly sane, which made us feel more at ease with our decision. We took a deep breath, crossed the bridge and entered Seurasaari, deliberately avoiding looking at the dark clouds above us.
At the entrance, we were met by folks in traditional Finnish costumes demonstrating their skills in chain knoting. I couldn’t help thinking what a huge hit they would be among Greenpeace activists.
We eventually reached the main stage, where a children’s band called “Ammuu” was rocking it really hard, to the amusement of our little daughter and tens of other children.
This year the organizer (Seurasaari Foundation) decided to include lots of activities for children to their midsummer eve program of festivities. There were swings and a playground for children (…and the young at heart), storytelling, puppet show, and horse carriage rides!
The children had their own midsummer bonfire!
There were also folk dances and procession of flags.
And some nature-inspired hairdos.
Because I happen to be a romantic fool, I saved the best for last. Every year on midsummer eve, a couple is getting married in the old church of Seurasaari. Their wedding waltz is part of the island’s midsummer festivities. This year the bride was from Finland and the groom from Australia. A happy ending to a midsummer, that exceeded all our expectations.
Midsummer love and the video to prove it:
For info on Midsummer in Helsinki’s Seurasaari, click here.
And for a different approach on Midsummer by Finnish blogger Miia, click here.
Do you have similar kind of celebrations on the occasion of summer solstice in your country?