22.11.2017

Finland - Land of the Midnight Sun

This year, the International Oral History Association (IOHA) 2018 Congress will be held from June 18 to 21, which is just before Finns celebrate Midsummer June 22-23. Midsummer is a national holiday in Finland and it is as important as Christmas. On Midsummer Eve (June 22) and Midsummer Day (June 23), all public transportation will be out of service, most stores will be closed and the Finns will retire to their summer cottages. This also means that the city centers will be virtually deserted. So if you plan to stay in Finland after the congress, you should take into account that all services will be limited and travelling from one place to another will be difficult during Midsummer Eve and Midsummer Day.

Midsummer is a time of light in the Northern hemisphere. Midsummer days are long in Finland and it never gets completely dark during the night. In Lapland, which is the Northern part of Finland located above the Arctic Circle, the Midsummer sun lingers on the horizon even at night. So IOHA will offer you a great opportunity to experience the long summer days in Finland.

Even though it is summer in Finland, the weather is highly variable. The temperatures in the Jyväskylä area at the end of June can vary from 5°C (40°F) to almost 30 °C (85°F). Both rain and sunshine are possible and changes in the weather can occur quickly. This means that you also need to prepare for cold and rainy weather.

MIDSUMMER TRADITIONS

Midsummer celebrations date back hundreds of years. According to Finland. A Cultural Encyclopedia (1997, 83–84) “Midsummer’s Day, the feast day of John the Baptist and Finland’s Flag Day, has been one of the most important days in Lutheran calendar. The festival is celebrated on the Saturday that falls between 20th June and 26th June. Many of the customs associated with Midsummer's Day derive from the pre-Christian and pan-European festival of light and fertility that marked the summer solstice. The burning of the Midsummer kokko (‘bonfire’), originally a tradition linked, in the north and east of the country, with beliefs concerning fertility, cleansing and the banishing of evil spirits, has in the 20th century spread throughout Finland. It has become the central element in the programme of commercial Midsummer festivities, along with music and dance. Homes are decorated with flowers and birch branches. A Midsummer pole reminiscent of an ornamental sailing mast is part of the Finland-Swedish tradition of southern Finland and Åland. Flags are raised at 6 am. on Midsummer’s Eve and lowered only at 9 pm. on the night of the following day. Midsummer delicacies include pancakes, new potatoes and salmon.”

 

REFERENCES

Hildi Hawkins & Päivi Vallisaari (eds.) 1997. Finland. A Cultural Encyclopedia. Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, pp. 83–84.