The Midsummer Festival is the greatest summer celebration in Finland. Midsummer is celebrated each year between the 20th and 26th of June. It is a celebration of light and the beginning of the summer. It is the time for Finns to relax and enjoy the magical "Night less Night" when the sun doesn't go down but for a few short hours.
Lot of the celebration of midsummer takes place on Midsummer Eve, when many workplaces are closed and shops have to close their doors at noon. This year the Midsummer Eve is celebrated on Friday June 25th. Midsummer Day is also the Day of the Finnish Flag. It's also common for Finns to start their summer holidays on Midsummer day.
The celebration of 'Juhannus', as the Midsummer festival is called in Finnish, originates from John the Baptist ("Johannes" in Finnish), who's commemoration-, and birthday is celebrated in Midsummer. Before 1316, the summer solstice was called Ukon juhla, after the Finnish god Ukko.
In the Finnish midsummer celebration, many traditions from the past are still followed today, one of them the building of the huge bonfire ("kokko" in Finnish) by the water. On the Midsummer weekend many music festivals are arranged and most of the cities have official celebrations and big bonfires for people to gather around and see. All over Finland, close to midnight on Midsummer Eve, the bonfires are ceremoniously lit.
Many Finns prefer to celebrate this special occasion in the countryside, at their summer cottages by a lake or the sea together with friends and relatives. They heat up the sauna and make a sauna whisk out of birch twigs, grill sausages and enjoy plenty of drinks. People place two young birch trees on either side of the front door to welcome visitors. The flag is hoisted at 6 pm on Midsummer eve and flown all night till 9 pm the following evening.
Midsummer has also been linked to magic and many believes. According to an old belief, the short night of Midsummer tempted witches, fairies and elves to tease people or to show them their future happiness. In folk magic, midsummer was the time for many small rituals, mostly for young maidens seeking suitors and fertility. Even today it is popular for young girls to pick flowers on midsummer night and to place them under their pillows in the hope to see their future husbands in their dreams.