Culture around the world

How To Celebrate The Summer Solstice Around Europe

If you ever ask a person from Northern Europe to tell you more about Midsummer’s Eve celebrations and what crazy things happen during that night, I advise you to grab a drink and get comfy. Midsummer Eve is notorious for its magical traditions that people from Northern Europe greatly enjoy.

St. John’s day or as more of us might know, Midsummer’s Eve is widely celebrated around the world. Most of all, the traditions in Northern Europe stand out the most, as some of their ancient traditions are still practised there even today.

Although the actual day varies between 19th June and 25th June (close to the summer solstice) a lot of countries tend to celebrate Midsummer’s Eve on the 23rd of June.

Let’s see what different traditions you might find around Europe!

Bonfires

This is probably one of Midsummer Eve’s most notorious traditions..

Although not all countries have big celebrations during these holidays, bonfires are lit in many countries around Europe. People gather together in the countryside to light big bonfires and dance and sing around them. It is said that the bigger the bonfire, the surer you can be that bad spirits will stay far away.

Jumping over bonfires is also a huge tradition in several countries, which is said to purify the soul and guarantee you good luck! (Don’t try this at home)

Food and Booze

Midsummer_pickled_herring

Swedish midsummer herring

Food has an important place in people’s Midsummer’s celebrations.

In Sweden, people commonly eat fish – herring to be exact – along with delicious potatoes and freshly ripened strawberries to complement their meal.

In Estonia, any kind of meat is good. Hundreds of tonnes of meat plus many tonnes of sausages are believed to be purchased during these festivities.

Ask anyone who celebrates what the biggest part of Midsummer’s Eve is and you will 100% get an answer that involves a tipple or three.

For hundreds of years, people have been getting crazy on the shortest night of the year. It is believed that being loud and rowdy actually keeps the evil spirits away. The louder the crowd, the more crop you’ll have at the end of the summer!

Fairy Tales and Mystical Beliefs

In Estonia, there is a well-known fairytale about Koit (Dawn) and Hämarik (Dusk) where those two get to see each other only once a year – Midsummers. On the shortest night of the year, Koit and Hämarik share the briefest kisses and say goodbye until the next year.

Laanemaa_järv_Orkjärve_looduskaitsealal

Sunrise at Lake Laanemaa, Estonia

Lovers in Estonia also go for adventurous wanders on that night in hope of finding the mystical flower of the fern blooming, which is believed to only bloom on Midsummer’s night. That is believed to bring eternal love.

Beliefs surrounding magical events are also to be found in Finland, where people leave birch branches by their doorsteps to welcome their visitors. Finns also collect seven different types of flowers during the day and put them under their pillows, so their future spouses visit them in their dreams.

In Romania, at the crack of dawn people go out and make flower crowns and throw them onto their roofs. If the flower crown stays on the roof, a long and beautiful life awaits you. If not then.. Well.. wishful thinking often takes you far as well…

In Denmark, things get a bit darker. Puppet witches are put on big bonfires and burnt. Apparently, the story goes that the witches fly off together while the people are singing songs.

Singing and Dancing

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A Midsummer dance in Sweden

Singing and dancing have always been a very important part of the Midsummer celebrations.
In Sweden people start their day by picking flowers and making wreaths to put on the maypole. The maypole usually goes somewhere with lots of room for people to sing and dance around and have a good time.

Different festivals are also common. In some places, there are annual Midsummer’s parties where the nation’s favourite artists perform and an extra big bonfire is lit so that those without a country house to go to but still simply want a big party can join in with the fun.

United Kingdom

Although people from the UK don’t tend to celebrate Midsummer’s Eve as much as people elsewhere, there are still some people who like to celebrate the summer solstice and Midsummer’s Eve itself.

For example on the 21st of June many people travel to Stonehenge to observe the sunset and also witness the sun rising over the famous stones of the site on the shortest night of the year.

If you are in the UK and still want to celebrate Midsummer’s Eve, then there are many different events either organised by the Swedish or other communities where everyone is welcome.

Or.. ring your friends and invite them over for a BBQ.

And have fun!

That is what Midsummer’s Eve is all about.


17554213_10211789404108118_932462994165138518_nHi! I am Terje and I am Memrise’s new Marketing intern from Estonia! I always wanted to move to London, and 4 years ago I did. So far it has been the craziest experience of my life!

In my free time you might find me at home drawing and painting, or out and about, trying to stroke dogs that pass me on the street, or popping into a new park or a pub that I’ve found!

I also tweet @vaherterje

Feeling inspired to learn a new language? Check out Memrise!

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