Christmas and Midsummer: the two most quintessential Finnish holiday times that mark the darkest and lightest times of the year (yes, you can hear me crying now…). I’ve been out of the country for couple of Christmas holidays and several Midsummers and it has always evoked mixed feelings.
My first Midsummer out of Finland was when I had moved to Amsterdam. Obviously, Midsummer is not a thing in the Netherlands. On the Midsummer evening, I had been working late (now you can hear me and the labour unions weeping and wailing together). I was biking home through Vondelpark when I saw a bunch of Swedes erecting a maypole. I almost joined them. Maypole is not even a Finnish Midsummer tradition, drinking beer and going to sauna is. I resisted, because … what a self-deception: a Finnish person barging into a Swedish Midsummer festival in Vondelpark and thinking, “I’ve come home”. Just to make clear: I do love Swedes, Sweden and the Swedish boats as well when they don’t have any of the nasty stomach bug epidemics going on.
Anyway, the next day, I wanted to barbecue to have at least a little piece of the painfully missed Midsummer experience. So we head to Vondelpark with our mini grill. I accidentally drink a whole bottle of Pernod, which I took with us that we could have small aperitifs while waiting for the food to be ready. Note: even though I enjoy a glass or two of wine, in general I’m really not a big drinker. We end up in a strange fight with a lady with two teenagers about how we should have rather shouted at her kids than kindly asked them not to kick their football into our grill. The absurdity of the discussion and too much Pernod makes me cry. We are ready to go home. However, instead of going home we go to our nearby restaurant stinking smoke (with the grill!) and have couple more drinks. When we get home, I feel like, I’ve just returned from war.
The next morning I realise, I managed to pull through a Finnish teenage Midsummer without even noticing. Now, I solemnly believe that wherever a Finnish person is during the Midsummer time, some version of the Finnish Midsummer experience will take over her/him and there will always be a Midsummer. God bless us all and let it not be the teenage version. If you have a feeling that could happen, seriously consider joining the Swedes for happy pole dances instead.
This year, I will go to the summer cottage. There will be a sauna and a lake. Barbecue, beer and sausages. There will be fresh food that has the unique taste that can only develop under the constant northern sunshine. There will be mosquitos and the smell, and unfortunately taste of mosquito repellent, because some of it always somehow ends up in your mouth. There might be a bonfire as well.
Here is my little checklist for Finnish Midsummer celebrations.
It is very simple, because that’s what Midsummer is.
Sauna and swimming
Barbeque, beer, sausages
Boiled fresh potatoes with butter
You can also stay in a city, check Helsinki Midsummer events here.
The nightless night will be there for you and keep you awake no matter where you are. Look at the light, enjoy and be grateful!