Midsummer

Saturday, June 23, 2007 at 4:46 | Posted in Estonia, Finland, History | Leave a comment
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Midsummer is just about as big a holiday in northern parts of Europe as Christmas. While it is dark almost around the 24 hour clock in Helsinki in Christmas, the Midsummer night only has a couple of hours of twilight. It never really turns dark.

The practical Finns have adjusted their holiday calendar so that Midsummer Eve always occurs on a Friday. Saturday is accordingly always the Midsummer Day. Since shops were only allowed to be open till 1 p.m. on Friday, I did not manage to do any shopping at all. Luckily, my fridge is far from empty, there is both food and beer as much as I need. Good thing, too, because all the shops are closed on Saturday and just some of them open on Sunday afternoon.

The Estonian approach is different. Midsummer Eve is always on 23rd June and the Midsummer Day on 24th June. There is a historical reason for this. 23rd June also happens to be celebrated as the Victory Day to commemorate the Estonian victory over the German Landeswehr in the battle of Võnnu (presently Cesis in Latvia) in the Estonian freedom war. The battle took place on 23rd June 1919.

A tradition of the Victory Day is a military parade organized each year in a different town in Estonia. This year’s parade is going to take place in the town of Rapla. It will also be the first one to be received by president Thomas Hendrik Ilves. I am going to watch it live in TV, not least because it is one of the rare opportunities to hear a presidential speech. You may think that I would also let my eye rest on some of those female members of the voluntary Kaitseliit organisation. I could possibly not comment.

Midsummer also happens to be one of the biggest drinking holidays both in Finland and Estonia. I am not going to do much of that. I am a periodic drinker and my heavy drinking period occured a couple of weeks ago. It is now just some careful sipping of beer. I do observe another tradition, though. I do grill a lot of sausage. Then again, I do it on almost every day of the year, not just because it happens to be Midsummer.

I am not even trying to remember all the spells connected to Midsummer in these two countries. Like the Estonian one which promises good luck for the rest of your life if you find a flourishing Dryopteris on the Midsummer Night. Let us just say that I do not regard those spells as reliable. Gosh, that is almost like saying that you do not believe in Santa, but I would certainly not go that far.

So booze or no booze, sausage or no sausage, spells or no spells, I wish everybody a happy Midsummer. Looks like it is just the right time to start the countdown to Christmas.

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