Midsummer Festivals – Celebrate Summer Solstice
Midsummer is celebrated every year between June 20th and June 26th in many Scandinavian countries, as well as in some other European ones. More precisely, these Midsummer festivals are held on the longest day of the year –summer solstice.
You’ve probably heard about these festivals in movies or TV shows, the latest one being Ari Aster’s horror thriller “Midsommar”. It was released in 2019 and starred Florence Pugh. Thanks to the movie, the traditional Swedish festival became a household name for many.
If you want to take part in a Midsummer festival, you can head to many more countries than just Sweden. Don’t worry, none of the events involve sacrifices or other horrific scenarios. However, each country has its own highlights and customs. Are you curious to learn more about them? Then keep reading!
Midsummer Festivals in Scandinavia
Scandinavia is renowned for its Midsummer festivals. Yet, the customs differ depending on the country. We’ll show you how Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Denmark celebrate Midsummer!
Midsummer in Sweden
Midsummer is called “Midsomma” in Swedish. It always takes place on the Saturday between June 20th and June 26th and is the second-biggest celebration of the year after Christmas. Swedes spend this special day with their families and friends.
Celebrations are typically held in the countryside. City residents go together on a pilgrimage out into nature on the Friday before Midsummer. The Swedish flag is hoisted and stays flying in the wind the whole night, which is usually prohibited.
One of the traditional highlights is the Midsommarstång. It’s a tree trunk decorated with flowers and leaves, which is then erected on Midsummer’s Eve. People dance around it in a circle to traditional songs. Don’t worry, if you don’t know the lyrics yet, the Swedes will be happy to help you.
Traditional clothing also holds an important place. People like to wear white or flowery dresses, traditional costumes, and famous floral and twig wreaths. There is an abundance of drinks and snacks all evening. People harvest new potatoes, and serve them with fish, chives, and sour cream. There’s usually schnapps or beer to drink, and traditional strawberries with cream are passed around for dessert.
Of course, the Swedish Midsummer festivals also include old, mystical customs and mysteries. Nature is really important in Swedish culture, and it is said to have some magic in store for people celebrating Midsummer. Legends speak of elves and trolls dancing in the forest, and morning dew with healing powers.
If you are an unmarried woman, you are invited to join the others at night to pick some flowers. According to legend, picking flowers from seven meadows and putting them under your pillow at night will make you dream of the person you will marry one day. It’s worth a try, isn’t it?
Midsummer in Finland
There are also plenty of special traditions in Finland. Like in Sweden, Midsummer is celebrated on the Saturday between June 20th and June 26th. Here, the festivities are called “Juhannes”, named after the Christian story of John the Baptist’s birth.
The name is still relatively new. The event was originally called “Vakkajuhlat” (Festival of Baskets) or “Ukon juhla” (Ukko’s Fest). Ukko was the god of harvest, weather, and thunder. People would gather around water banks to eat and drink together.
It’s an important Finnish Midsummer tradition to drink and be really loud to drive the spirits away and guarantee a bountiful harvest. The more you drink, the better the harvest. Doesn’t that sound like a challenge?
Today, most of the noise comes from late-night concerts and parties. The Finns light big fires in places that can be seen from all around, usually in big clearings or by the beach. In contrast to Sweden, very few areas erect a Midsommarstång. Instead, Finns decorate their homes with flowers, twigs, and leaves.
Fins like to celebrate in big groups in the countryside. But you can attend large Midsummer festival in Helsinki as well. Open-air festivals are also becoming more popular. You’ll find the largest one in Rauma.
Midsummer in Norway and Denmark
Midsummer is celebrated on June 23rd in both Norway and Denmark. The festivities are called “Sankt Hans”. For the occasion, big fires are lit, and in Denmark, a straw witch is burned at the stake. This tradition originates in Germany and represents the destruction of all bad spirits.
Singing also plays an important part. Traditional songs are sung around the fire. Another tradition are the parades of people with lanterns and torches. Sausages, potato salad, and lompe (potato pancakes) are grilled over the fire for everyone to enjoy. Overall, Midsummer festivals in Norway and Denmark are a rustic, sociable, and cozy celebration that locals enjoy outdoors with their loved ones.
Midsummer Festivals Around the World
You can celebrate Midsummer elsewhere than Scandinavia as well. The tradition also exists in some other places in Europe where locals celebrate summer solstice. Is this news to you? Great, let us introduce you to other places where you can celebrate Midsummer festivals.
Midsummer in Latvia
Are you interested in traveling to the Baltics? Perfect! In Latvia, the Midsummer festival is called “Jāņi” and is also celebrated during the night of June 23rd. Just like in Sweden, the celebration focuses around mythology, flowers, healing, and nature. People make bouquets and braid wreaths to wear as headpieces. Women’s wreaths are made of flowers, while men’s consist of greenery.
Locals don’t only dress up themselves, they also decorate their house, entryways, barns, and even their pets! In Latvia, too, indulgence is a big part of the celebrations. You might get to taste some caraway cheese made especially for the event, or try your host’s homemade beer.
You’ll definitely enjoy Latvia if you like to sing and dance. They have a selection of more than a thousand songs for the night, which often sing praises to the sun or other religious traditions. A fire is kindled at sunset and kept burning for the entire night.
Midsummer in Poland
Midsummer in Poland is celebrated during the night of June 23rd, once again in honor of John the Baptist. Here, the event is called “noc świętojańska” (Saint John’s Night). People gather at lakes and rivers to celebrate love and fertility. You’ll get to pick herbs, weave floral wreaths, and ask nature for good health and prosperity.
Midsummer in Spain
Midsummer is celebrated in Spain under the name of “la Noche de San Juan”. People who live on the coast gather at the beach. By noon, people are already grilling food, lighting bonfires, and celebrating with their friends and family.
When the clock strikes midnight, people jump into the sea. Thousands of people singing, celebrating, and getting carried away by the thrill of the moment – doesn’t that sound like fun? Then head to Spain to celebrate Midsummer!
Midsummer festivals are full of music, fun, nature, and ancient traditions. The customs differ from country to country. However, decorating your house, weaving floral crowns and bonfires are often part of the celebrations.
Locals gather in large groups of friends and family in the countryside or by the water. Each country has its own highlight. You just have to experience this cultural spectacle in mid-June at least once for yourself! Perhaps you could visit a different country every summer to find out where you like to celebrate the best! We wish you lots of fun and a wonderful Midsummer celebration!