The rest of the world may be focusing on the World Cup in South Africa, but in Finland viewer rates will drop dramatically on Friday and Saturday as pretty much the whole population packs up their cars and heads to their summer cottages for Midsummer celebrations.
What Midsummer celebrations, you may well ask. Well, Midsummer – or juhannus – as it is called in Finnish, is one of the most important public holidays in our calendar. It is celebrated, as you probably guessed, close to the dates of the Summer Solstice, when day is at its longest in the northern hemisphere. Finland being so far up north, the sun doesn’t set on juhannus at all. Considering that in the winter we get the never ending night, it’s no surprise we celebrate the sun not setting.
So what do Finns do to celebrate juhannus? I already told you we flock to our summer cottages, but what then? We decorate the cottage with birch branches to celebrate the summer, we stock up on new potatoes which are just now in season and strawberries as well. We fire up the barbeque and eat grilled sausages to our hearts content. We burn bonfires that rival with the unsetting sun. And we get drunk.
The getting drunk bit has some very sad consequences, though. Each year the media report the number of people who drowned over the juhannus weekend. There is a clear correlation with the weather and these statistics: the colder the weather, the less people drown.
But why do people drown? Because the cottages are on lakes and at some point someone always gets the bright idea to go rowing. Or then they wrongly assess their strength when they decide to swim to a nearby shore. Thankfully the numbers have been getting smaller over the last decade with only 4 drowning last year. Hopefully figures will be low this year as well as the weather forecast doesn’t look too promising.
But juhannus and the getting drunk has the opposite effect as well. They say there is always a little jump in the number of births the following March…
So to my fellow Finns and others who enjoy the midnight sun, I wish a very happy juhannus! Remember to wear a life vest on the boat, stick close to the pier if you go swimming and if you have a tendency to turn the cottage inside out on Sunday in search of your phone and then find it under some empty sausage wrappers, spare yourself the grief and install our free Anti-Theft for mobile now. Before your first beer.
CC image by: Pekka Vainio
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