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A Message from Chef Anna

Midsummer – Longest Day of The Year – A Very Traditional Festival – Nightless Night

Coming Together for Midsummer

Midsummer is the most celebrated national holiday in Finland, taking place at the end of June. It’s typically celebrated with friends and family at a summer cabin away from the city or spent partying at various festivals held all over the country.

The History Behind the Celebration

The Midsummer celebration has its roots in pre-Christian traditions, tracing back to when Finns celebrated Ukon juhla (the feast of Ukko) who was the pagan god of fertility, growth, and weather. With the introduction of Christianity to Finland, the festival was born and became known as Juhannus (named after St. John the Baptist) and was celebrated on his Saint’s day, June 24th, 1955. It was thanks to the efforts of labor organizations that the celebration was fixed to land on the Saturday that falls between June 20th and 26th. Today, the celebration is a mix of both pagan and Christian traditions and is celebrated for many days!

The midnight sun is a key component to the festivities taking part in the northern part of the Finland. I have always spent Midsummer in the south and nights are white there also! It’s amazing! Every year it surprises!

Taking Part in the Traditions

There are many traditions and beliefs surrounding Midsummer. The most commonly practiced traditions are lighting bonfires and bathing in saunas! One of the best aspects of a traditional Midsummer sauna is the vihta (birch tree branches fashioned together and used to pat yourself down with). And let’s not forget the refreshing swim in the lake that comes afterwards, or the beers!

In the old days, bonfires were lit to keep evil spirits away. Some old beliefs even say that loud behavior brings luck and drives away evil spirits…so Finns make sure to be boisterous at every cabin and festival! People take full advantage of when summer finally rolls around, and many people take their much needed vacations at this time.

One popular belief is that when a young woman collects seven flowers under her pillow on Midsummer night, her future fiancée will show up in her dreams!

When I was working as a nurse, I had to spend a few Midsummer weekends in the city…I felt very lonely with all of my friends and family away at their cabins. However, some people do choose to celebrate Midsummer in quiet, empty cities. That sure is an exceptional feeling!!

Getting into the Midsummer Spirit

We love to decorate houses and doorways with young birch trees, flowers, and — of course — food plays a huge role in these festivities. We like to keep it simple. Tasty grilling and barbeque are very common during Midsummer. Grilling food outside by the lake is undeniably fun – and easy! Grilled sausages, salmon, and pretty much anything else you can think of are put on the grill and oh my is it delicious. New potatoes with dill and butter is one of my favorites sides. I miss them like crazy while living here in the US. These potatoes or, anything that grows out of Nordic ground, is something so tasty and mouthwatering that you won’t find anywhere else. Lätty (Finnish crepes) are often cooked outside on a special griddle pan placed upon a wood burning fire pit, and enjoyed with fresh strawberries! Sausage must be enjoyed with mustard — It’s absolutely mandatory to get the full experience! When we are especially missing summer during the cold winter months, we grill sausages wrapped in foil and place them in the sauna on a stove, and eat them with mustard just like we do during the summer time!

Bringing Midsummer to Minnesota

It is fair to say that Finnish Midsummer party traditions run very deep. This year, we will celebrate our very first Midsummer in Minnesota. Because we insist on still celebrating this incredible tradition, we put together a huge party for everyone we know: The Scandinavian Midsummer Party at OA-House! We will be serving delicious, Scandinavian food both inside and outside. Join us to play yard games, listen to music, dance, drink beer, wine, and homemade rhubarb lemonade! See you there!

Ps. I will be sharing a few Midsummer recipes with you, so keep your eyes out for them!

– Chef Anna –

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