Midsummer in Helsinki
Today is one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) holiday in Finland: Midsummer. Nobody is at work (except some non-Finns like us).
Everybody is supposed to get ready for the celebration tonight. We are also going later to see what’s going on. We’ll try the festivities from Seurasaari island, where there are supposed to be some bonfires and all sorts of traditional activities.
Here is something I found on http://virtual.finland.fi/netcomm/news/showarticle.asp?intNWSAID=26049 about the meaning and origins of the Midsummer celebration:
“The second high point of the year comes exactly six months after Christmas, when the interminable nights of winter have given way to the white nights of the Finnish summer. Midsummer, celebrated at the summer solstice, has been very important since pagan times, especially in northern Europe, where the difference between the dark and the light seasons is particularly dramatic. In the north of Finland, Midsummer marks the peak of the exotic appeal of the Arctic, as the sun remains above the horizon all night.
Midsummer in Finland is a celebration of the countryside. Towns and cities are deserted, as this holiday is traditionally celebrated in a rural setting, preferably at a waterside summer cottage. Anyone who has to stay in town over Midsummer can buy birch leaves and lilac at the marketplace to help create an illusion of the countryside. At Midsummer, trains, buses and trams are sometimes also decorated with birch branches.
Lighting a bonfire is the high point of Midsummer night. Originally, bonfires were only part of the eastern Finnish Midsummer celebrations. In western Finland, bonfires were traditionally lit on Ascension Day and at Whitsun, and in Ostrobothnia on Easter Saturday. Nowadays, Midsummer fires are lit all over Finland, except in the Swedishspeaking areas along the coast, where a Midsummer pole, similar to a maypole, is erected instead.
In the old days, every village used to build its own bonfire, as Midsummer was a village feast day. Today, the biggest bonfires are seen at public Midsummer celebrations, where you have to buy a ticket to get in. In addition to the leaping flames by the shore, the ideal Midsummer includes silver birches, maidens in national costume and, flying above it all, the blueandwhite flag of Finland. Midsummer is the day of the Finnish flag and up and down the country the white flag with the blue cross can be seen flying proudly through the white night.”