Summer in Finland is short and snowless, they say. There is some truth in this joke, because compared to the long winter season, the warm months are quickly over. But they can be warmer and more beautiful than many Central Europeans believe. And the Finns know how to use that all the more intensively.
In this article I’ll show you how the happiest country in the world enjoys its summer – with fun games and activities, the main thing to be outside in the wonderful nature! Find out how you too can bring a piece of Finnish summer to your home.
WHEN DOES SUMMER START IN FINLAND?
The transition from the – at least in the northern parts of the country – still snowy winter to the bright nights of the Finnish summer is often quite sudden. A few days ago, the temperature was still below zero, and a few days later, it had risen to a pleasant early summer level and the first Finns were getting ice cream at the kiosk.
At the end of May, the children sing the traditional song “Suvivirsi” at school, and shortly after that they say goodbye to the long summer vacations. Adults also usually schedule their vacations so that they have a long time off during the summer months. On Midsummer – called Juhannus in Finland – no one wants to work. Many offices are almost deserted for several weeks and people are drawn out of their city apartments and into nature, to the Mökki. To this day, a large part of Finnish families own such a summer house.
ON JUHANNUS THE SHORTEST NIGHT OF THE YEAR IS CELEBRATED
Juhannus is a festival in Finland that is celebrated mainly in private. There are public midsummer bonfires here and there, but most people get together with their loved ones and have a carefree evening. At the Mökki you can chill in comfortable Finnish wooden furniture or have a barbecue together. Neither the typical Finnish “Grillimakkara” (grilled sausage), which consists more of flour than meat and is nevertheless cult somewhere, nor the delicious Finnish mustard may be missing.
For most Finns, it’s part of the experience to crack open a cold beer or two, a sparkling cider (“siideri”) or a refreshing lonkero. Unfortunately, one or the other overdoes it, swims out to the lake and never comes back. Also with the boat capsize and drown at Juhannus again and again persons, who have taken to the alcohol a trace too uninhibitedly. Therefore, it is better to enjoy with caution and stay ashore after a few drinks, then Midsummer will be remembered as a happy celebration.
By the way, if you turn on the Finnish radio around Juhannus, you’ll hear various new and old summer hits that are the perfect soundtrack for the long days and short nights.
THE TRADITION OF THE MIDSUMMER SAUNA
Besides barbecuing and feasting, the sauna – how could it be otherwise – also plays an important role at Juhannus. With the Finns, this is a real celebration. The sauna stove is fired with wood and the cut birch branches are laid out with which the body is “patted” from top to bottom. This is beneficial for blood circulation and an ancient ritual. The branches are called either “vihta” or “vasta” depending on where you are in Finland.
Many Finns still prefer infusions with pure water, but some places do experiment with different sauna fragrances. As always in the Finnish sauna, what is allowed is what pleases the sauna community. It is sometimes as simple as that. If you want to bring a little Finnish sauna feeling to your home, you can do so with birch shampoo or tar shampoo, for example. The latter sounds wackier than it ultimately is. By the way, in Finland, everyone decides for themselves when it’s enough with the sauna hangs. The important thing is that you feel good about it.
CARPET WASHING AS A BELOVED RITUAL
If you’ve ever traveled through Finland, you’ve probably noticed them: the traditional carpet washing places on the shores of countless lakes. Here Finns gather in the summer and wash their carpets from apartments or Mökkis.
The whole thing is an ancient ritual that is followed with great attention to detail. When it smells like the Finnish cult all-purpose cleaner Mäntysuopa all over the pier, happiness and contentment are tangible.
TYPICAL FINNISH SUMMER GAMES
No Mökki should be without a “Tikkataulu”. The game of darts, which is similar to darts, has been widely played in Finland for generations. Equally high is the cult factor of the “Mölkky”. This Finnish throwing game requires a little skill and is especially fun on a balmy summer evening.
And if it is to continue in the evening in the Mökki in a cozy round, it is quite possible that the legendary board game “Afrikan tähti” is unpacked. To this day, many Finns also enjoy the team sport “Pesäpallo” or even play this specifically Finnish variant of baseball themselves in a club.
OUT INTO NATURE IN SUMMER
A variety of activities in nature and in or near the water are as much a part of the Finnish summer as the puck is to ice hockey. In the crystal clear lakes you can go swimming, with or without sauna, go for a ride in a rowing boat or canoe and of course fishing.
What tastes better than freshly caught fish prepared a few meters from the boathouse itself? Add to that some crispy Finnish chips and delicious salads and your summer happiness is complete.
In addition to fishing and water sports, there are hikes through the quiet forests, where not only bears can sometimes be found (here it helps to sing loudly so that they don’t even come close!), but also lots of berries. Depending on the season, it is teeming with cranberries or blueberries, which look especially pretty when collected in a traditional kuksa.
Also a treat of the Finnish summer are the small but all the sweeter strawberries. I love them!
RELAXING IN FINNISH
To make their Mökki beautiful and cozy, the Finns are happy to invest the necessary time and also make the one or other investment. In addition to the sauna culture, a bathing barrel culture has established itself, which is now spilling over into Central Europe. What could be more relaxing than to end the evening after a few sauna sessions in a pleasantly tempered hot tub with your favorite people and good drinks? No wonder the Finns live in the happiest country in the world, because they really get the most out of their short summer.
Text: René Schwarz
About the Author:
René Schwarz is half Finnish and grew up bilingual. The self-employed copywriter and author travels regularly in his second home country and loves to share his passion for Suomi with others. Since the beginning of 2016, he has also been doing this on his blog FinnTouch, where you can expect, among other things, numerous Finland travel tips, interviews with Finnish artists and also very personal stories. Check us out at www.finntouch.de!