It’s 8 pm in Rovaniemi and I should get the kids to sleep, but they a running wildly around the house like it would be afternoon. Well, looking outside the window it as well could be, as the sun is still shining bright and people are enjoying the outdoors. One neighbor is mowing the lawn and the other neighbor is piling up the wood for the winter. The midnight sun has arrived to Lapland, which basically means that the sun doesn’t set below the horizon at all and there are no dark nights. Try explaining that to small kids.
Midnight sun (in Finnish: “keskiyön aurinko”) delights our nights with warm sunlight between 6th June until 5th July here in Rovaniemi. The Finns celebrate the midnight sun and midsummer day (in Finnish: “juhannus”) on the eve of the summer solstice which is normally on the 21st June. Traditionally Finns celebrate the midsummer by going to midsummer sauna with self-made birch whisk, firing midsummer bonfire at midnight by the water and by attending midsummer dances. As a heritage from the old days, some midsummer magic is also involved with the celebrations.
If you’re spending midsummer in the city, you may be one of the rare ones. Those who enjoy the luxury of owning a summer cabin will spend their midsummer there. Those who stay in the city are not left with empty handed, as traditionally the city arranges one big midsummer bonfire on the shore of Kemijoki river which allows everyone to celebrate equally. The bonfire is traditionally lit right next to the shore of river or lake and it’s normal to see multiple bonfires by one water area, each family lighting up one big bonfire. There’s some old belief that the big bonfire keeps the bad spirits away – but nowadays it’s more of a traditional celebration.
The most interesting tradition in midsummer are the magics. It was something that I truly waited as a child. Midsummer magics traditionally focus on future and marriage (old fashioned, I know) and there are several different believes depending on the area. One midsummer magic is that by picking up seven different flowers and placing them under your pillow for the midsummer night, you may see your future husband in a dream. Another one is that if you look down in a well, you may see your future spouse in the water. Traditionally when already picking flowers, we also pick some for the midsummer wreath, which is a self-made crown made of different flowers.
Finally, it’s my turn to teach the kids what midsummer and the magics mean. Even though the magics are rather old fashioned with their believes, they are nice tradition to pass on. This midsummer we will spend peacefully at the cabin, lighting our own bonfire at midnight and eating well. I’m pretty sure my colleagues have the same plan. Let’s enjoy the midnight sun while it lasts as before we know it, the autumn and its dark nights will arrive.