The Helsinki Cathedral in Finland

Celebrating Midsummer in Finland

From epic open-air parties to days where the sun never sets, we spoke with our friends at Visit Finland to unlock the magical secrets of Midsummer.

This story was created in partnership with: Visit Finland 

Finland may be the world’s happiest country, but come June’s summer solstice, it’s also the most magical. Imagine a sun that never sets — a playful one — that casts a stunning reflection on crystal-clear lakes and jumps off trees and buildings to drape an entire country in golden hues. This is Midsummer in Finland. 

A lively and cheerful celebration, Midsummer signals the start of summer in Finland and the locals are more than happy to throw themselves into the festivities below a Midnight Sun. Finland is among the few places where this incredible astronomical event occurs during the summer as a quarter of the country lies north of the Arctic Circle.  

If you were looking for the best time to visit this, this is it. Here’s everything you need to know about celebrating Midsummer in Finland.

Celebrate below a sun that never sets

Finland is known as the land of the Midnight Sun. During the country’s dark winter, sunlight is rare, but in peak summer months, the complete opposite happens. Best experienced in June and July, Finland’s Midnight sun can be seen almost 24 hours a day and is cause for much celebration among the residents. 

Understandably, the Midnight Sun features heavily in the Midsummer national holiday. Public spaces spring to life with festivities and locals embrace the extended sunlight hours by staying out late into the night. 

As the brightest object in earth’s sky stays high and refuses to disappear into the horizon, there’s a celebratory feeling in the air, which makes you feel like anything is possible. 

Old Bridge in Finland
Celebrating Midsummer in Finland is an experience unlike anything else! | © Juha Kinnunen/Flickr

What is Midsummer?

Complete with the Midnight Sun, bonfires, dancing and other festivities, Midsummer or Juhannus is a major national holiday throughout Finland. Centuries ago, Midsummer was a pagan festival that paid tribute to the Finnish god of thunder, Ukko. Because he controlled the rain, his followers would pay homage to him during Midsummer to ensure a good harvest. These days, Midsummer is also for John the Baptist whose commemoration and birthday are celebrated during this time.

When does Midsummer take place?

Although the date changes from year to year, Midsummer usually takes place on the Saturday between the 20th to the 26th of June. In 2020, Midsummer falls on Saturday, the 20th of June. For Finnish people, this national holiday is one of the highlights of summer and time for their annual vacation. It’s also a popular weekend for weddings, so if you do happen to visit around this time, expect to see many glowing brides out and about.

How to celebrate Midsummer

Midsummer reaches its zenith around June’s summer solstice, and festivities will begin a few days before Midsummer’s Eve. While many locals stay in the city to party, plenty love to get away at this time as well by visiting a cabin or cottage or by heading to one of Finland’s spectacular islands. 

Some top activities during Midsummer include barbeques, bathing in saunas, camping, hiking, fishing, and even boating. What you can expect, no matter where you happen to be in Finland — as part of the older traditions associated with this national holiday — are bonfires throughout the country.

A large bonfire in Helsinki, Finland, in celebration of Midsummer
The Seurasaari Midsummer Bonfires in Helsinki are not to be missed! | © Ninara/Flickr

In the old days, these bonfires were lit to ward off evil spirits and to ensure a bountiful harvest. But having a good time has always been part and parcel of Midsummer celebrations. Finnish legend has it that boisterous behaviour can keep evil spirits at bay, and some even believed that the more they were able to drink, the better the crop would be at the end of summer! Locals would also cast spells, and the most popular of charms were for increasing fertility and finding spouses.

Along with bonfires and incantations, other Finnish Midsummer traditions include events and festivals throughout the country that last until the early hours of the morning and midnight swims in satisfyingly warm water.

11 ways to celebrate Midsummer in Finland

If you want to experience this national holiday like one of the locals, here’s your checklist!

Go to a bonfire on the night of Midsummer Eve: No matter what you do, this has to be number one on the list. How else are you going to keep those evil spirits at bay? 

Bathe in a sauna: The best way to enjoy the Midnight Sun and a Finnish tradition at the same time is by relaxing in the intoxicating heat of a sauna with the added twist of birch branches. After lighting a sauna fire, locals like to increase circulation in their body by beating their skin with birch branches, and then cool-off by pouring cold water over each other or taking a dip. 

A group of Finnish men on a party boat on a river in Finland
A floating party on the Kemijoki River | © Melinda van den Brink/Flickr

Go for a midnight swim: What could be more pleasant than taking a rare dip in a crystal-clear lake at midnight? Thanks to the extended sunlight hours, the water will still be warm. 

Cast a Midsummer spell: When we say Midsummer in Finland is magical and anything could happen, we mean it. Perhaps the best thing about this national holiday is that you can actually try your hand at casting a spell. One of the most popular local incantations to entice a spouse among women involves foraging for in a meadow for flowers to place under their pillows! 

Head out to a cottage for the holiday weekend: If you really love living like a local while travelling, then borrow a page from the Finnish Midsummer handbook and whisk yourself away to a cabin or cottage. Once there you can partake in all merriment of bonfires, drinking and late-night skinny dipping. 

Go island-hopping: There are several islands within Finland’s borders prime for Midsummer celebrations. One of the top spots includes the Turku Archipelago in southwestern Finland. It’s a top-rated destination with the locals, and if you do opt for some island hopping, you can enjoy boating and fishing.

Go to Seurasaari: If you want to experience island life but stay close to Helsinki, then join the party on Seurasaari. According to My Helsinki, Seurasaari has hosted the official celebrations for over 60 years. Midsummer festivities include a pole decorated in flowers, folk dancing and a magic walkway for all your enchanted incantations.

Midsummer cruise: Another way to experience this national celebration is by taking a cruise! This way, you can see a shoreline ablaze with the flames of hundreds of bonfires. Opt for a lake cruise or choose one that goes around Helsinki’s islands.

A group of Finnish women in traditional dress during Midsummer celebrations
Locals in traditional Midsummer attire | © Ninara/Flickr

Open-air parties and traditional dances: Picture yourself dancing on the coast below a sun that never sets! Parties along the shoreline have become a popular addition to Midsummer festivities in recent years, but you should also check out traditional dances that happen throughout the country as well.

Let loose: Ensure the Finnish people have a good harvest by toasting the old gods and the new with plenty of drink. Just remember to drink responsibly! 

Midsummer in Finland will stir your soul and offers the chance to experience the extraordinary. Discover the Land of the Midnight Sun for yourself on tour. Find all our most popular experiences now and book the one that speaks to you.

Travel to: Finland

Based in Toronto, Sahar is a full-time content editor for Days to Come and part-time travel junkie.

The Yukon at night
Up Next:

Canada off the Beaten Track

Canada off the Beaten Track