Magic, fire and open-air dancing: Midsummer celebrations in Finland, Sweden and Spain

June 20, 2017

We Finns believe that Midsummer is the second best party of the year (Christmas is the best). Midsummer in the north is all about sauna, barbecue, bonfires, dancing and magic (one of the most popular rituals is to run around the dewy fields naked).

In addition to the abovementioned activities, Swedes also like to erect maypoles and dance around them.  In both countries, people head out of the cities to their summer cottages already on Thursday or Friday morning to decorate the doorways with birch branches and start the preparations for the big feast.

Midsummer in Finland

Different enchantments and rituals are performed in order to ensure fertility, a good harvest and a good marriage. Young girls pick flowers and put them under their pillow to catch a glimpse of their future husband in a dream.

Evil spirits are expelled by bonfires and heavy drinking. According to an old legend, the more drunk people got on Midsummer, the better the harvest.

In Finland and Sweden, this year’s Midsummer is celebrated on the 23rd and 24th of June.

Midsummer in Sweden and Finland for tourists

If you are traveling to Sweden on Midsummer, you better memorize the lyrics of the popular drinking song “Helan går”. You can find the lyrics of the song here and hear the melody in this video as performed by Malin Akerman.

The Swedes love their community singing, and this song is an essential part of their Midsummer repertoire.

If your midsummer destination is Finland, you will need to pack at least a raincoat, mosquito repellent and some alcoholic beverages (alcohol is very expensive in Finland). On the other hand, there is no need to pack a swimsuit because Finns usually swim naked at their summer cottages.

Please note that in both Finland and Sweden, most shops are closed and cities deserted on Midsummer. The best way to make the most of this occasion is to make some local friends and try to wangle an invitation to someone’s cottage party.

If this doesn’t work, find your way to the closest open-air dance hall or camping site for the best parties. If you plan to visit Stockholm on Midsummer, I recommend heading to Skansen, where they organize a major Midsummer feast.  In Helsinki, the traditional urban Midsummer celebrations take place in Seurasaari.

Spanish Midsummer, a.k.a. Saint John’s Eve

In Spain, Midsummer night is called ”La noche de San Juan”. The best parties can be found on the beach, where Spaniards gather to eat, drink and jump over the fires they’ve built (which looks really dangerous, by the way). According to local belief, jumping over the mini bonfires cleanses sins and burns away all the problems.

Midsummer in Spain

There is music roaring from the huge loudspeakers that have been dragged to the beach. Fireworks are popping and crackling in the sky. At midnight, everyone runs to the ocean at the same time. The face and feet must be washed three times in order to ensure the fulfillment of three wishes and good luck for the next 12 months.



Happy Midsummer!

P.S. Don’t forget:

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