Midsummer 2016 is now over. We have returned home after paying our respects to the summer solstice. For years to come we will remember this year’s festivities as a time of chaos. On the morning of Midsummer’s eve we read it in the newspapers, we heard it on the radio. A majority of the British voters had declared that they wanted to leave the European Union. Journalists wrote about impeding chaos. Of course we talked about it. As we ate herring and drank wine, we pondered the situation and the future. And then there was some football involved as well. This year we celebrated Midsummer on the Åland Islands.
Midsummer Eve On The Åland Islands
Midsummer is one of the most important festivities in Finland and Sweden. For many it is the beginning of the summer holidays and this is usually when summer begins for real. The most important day of the weekend is Midsummer’s Eve – the Friday between the 19th and 26th of June. In fact this is a public holiday in both Finland and Sweden, meaning that most offices and many shops are closed.
The celebrations in Sweden and the Åland Islands are rather similar. Different villages raise a midsummer pole (also known as maypole) and people dance around it. On the Åland Islands the poles are decorated with wreaths of green leaves, garlands, and colourful flowers. Some of them have colourful handmade crowns that symbolize different things. Actually there are many small details on the midsummer poles and they are all symbols for fertility, harvest, fishing, luck and the like. And all poles are different. We very much enjoy visiting different sites to check out the midsummer poles in the villages.
It is also a weekend for eating and drinking well with family and friends. The socializing usually continues well into the night. We enjoyed all sorts of delicacies that are typical for the Nordic cuisine; herring, barbecue, berries. Another fun tradition (from the Finnish side of the family) is the sauna. Unfortunately we didn’t have any birch branches* this year, but sitting in a wood stove sauna in the middle of nowhere is quite relaxing.
On Saturday we decided to go on a small adventure to nearby island Föglö. A mere 30 minutes from the main island by ferry, Föglö is an interesting place to visit for a couple of hours.
It was a great day for walking in the nature; the sun was shining and the wind was calm. One thing about the Åland Islands is that it is a very peaceful place. You cannot expect too much action. So our adventure consisted in enjoying the fresh air while admiring the sea and visiting some sights. One of these sites was the local church. The original church, with its nave dating back to the 14th century, was almost totally rebuilt in the 1860s. However, the tower and the western part of the nave remain of the medieval church.
One of the most amazing things about having a cottage by the sea is the possibility to spend lazy days on the cliffs. No holiday without being a wee bit lazy. Sunshine, red cliffs, and a compelling novel. What else could you possibly want?
Speaking about the cottage – it’s nothing for lightweights. Imagine a red wooden cottage in the middle of the forest. With no electricity, with no running water. And no modern toilet. Modern amenities do not exist there. A wood-burning stove heats the cottage and candles light up the darkness. But, spending a few days in this type of wildness works wonders for the mind!
Did you celebrate Midsummer?
*In order to make the sauna experience even more healthy and relaxing, one can use leafy boughs of silver birch to beat oneself gently. The keyword here is gently – the routine is relaxing for the muscles and also stimulates the skin.