Monday January 17, 2022

Juhannus celebrations begin with less festivity amid pandemic

Published : 25 Jun 2021, 01:26

Updated : 25 Jun 2021, 01:31

  DF Report by Lisa Koenig

File picture of Juhannus (Midsummer) celebration. Photo: City of Helsinki by Matti Miinalainen.

People from all walks of life are set to celebrate Juhannus (Midsummer), one of the largest traditional festivals, beginning on Friday evening amidst Covid-19 restrictions.

People will not throng the banks of lakes, rivers and sea along with their family, relations and friends this year to light bonfire because of the Covid-19 situation and weather warning.

Although city corporations and other organizations will not hold the traditional gathering on banks of rivers and lakes and will not light bonfire as they decided to suspend cultural activities such as food, music and dance, people will mark the occasion in different ways with family and friends.

There will be exotic foods and drinks, besides music, dance, songs and making fun, on the occasion of the biggest summer celebrations.

Juhannus is traditionally celebrated on a Saturday between the 20th and the 26th of June and this year it will be marked on June 26 while celebrations will begin on June 25, the eve of the Midsummer Day.

Daily Finland spoke to some city residents in Rovaniemi to know of their plans marking the Juhannus holidays.

Mareta, a resident who is 56 years old, does not think that the cancellation of the official celebrations by the city would harm her plans.

“In my childhood, we spent the Midsummer with the family at home or we rented some cottage. Nowadays the Midsummer is not so important for me any more because most of the time I have to work. I work in an emergency room and this year, it is the same. I work at night and I will sleep in the daytime,” she said.

Jenni, another woman who is 33 years old, termed the Juhannus as a very nice holiday. “The Midsummer is a nice extra holiday. We usually go to some cottage and swim, go to the sauna and eat some nice grilled food. I think that is very common for Finnish people,” said Jenni, adding that for this year, she has plans to celebrate the occasion with her family.

“But I think there are a lot of families with small children and when they are in the city during midsummer, the fire is something very great. It is disappointing that it cannot happen now,” she said.

Minttu, 29 years old, and Jutta, 33 years old, see the midsummer as an important celebration spent with friends or family.

“It is also the day when people enjoy alcohol a bit too much, maybe. But then again, when you mostly work, it is a nice time to relax and forget your daily stress,” Jutta said.

They normally go out to a cottage as well. “I have never spent the Midsummer in the city”, Minttu said.

The parties in the city center are usually for young people like students going from pub to pub, Minttu said.

“Most Finnish people go out in the nature or at least out of the city. From what I heard people who enjoy festivities in the city are usually those who have to work for the day but then have the next day off so that they can at least enjoy it a bit,” Jutta said.

Terming the Covid-19 situation unfortunate, Roosa Nevala, the cultural producer of Rovaniemi City, said that in normal time, there were many festivities in the city of Rovaniemi such as food, music, dance and the annual bonfire at the beach.

Even though it is, of course, unfortunate, “such big celebrations that bring us together are canceled, people understand, especially with Covid-19 being around,” said Nevala.

People are, as she said, aware that the Covid-19 situation and regulations effect public events strongly. But she also emphasized the importance of the celebrations for people of all ages. “Normally, during the Midsummer celebrations, thousands of people gather by the riverside.”

Even though the city canceled its celebrations, there is still something going on in the city of Rovaniemi. Public gatherings of more than 50 people are allowed inside and outside provided that safety can be guaranteed, as the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare say.

It is a public holiday and all offices but for those offering emergency services will remain closed from Friday to Monday.

The Midsummer is also Day of the Finnish Flag when flags are raised at 1800 on Midsummer’s Eve and lowered on Midsummer Day at 2100.

It is believed that the biblical John the Baptist was born on Midsummer’s Day.

After the Christianization of Scandinavia in the Middle Ages, Midsummer’s day was set on June 24 to commemorate St John the Baptist, the saint who baptized Jesus.

Nowadays, the Midsummer, however, is celebrated on Saturday between June 20 and June 26 and the celebrations combine both Pagan and Christian traditions.