Magic of Summer
Juhannus the summer solstice is one of the most joyous holidays in Finland. Cities become empty when families and friends travel to the country side and to their summer cabins. From all the holidays Juhannus the summer solstice is the most pagan and the ancient customs of the holiday haven´t changed that much. For many summer solstice is magical time simply because the sun does not go down. This is the time when the sun is closest to the earth in the northern hemisphere.
Old pagan name for Juhannus was Ukon Vakat. It was a celebration to honor Ukko the thunder god. For thousands of years Finland was an agricultural society. God who brought the rain with him was naturally the most worshiped of all the gods. Name ukko literally means an old man but in the old days ukko was an honorary title given to a man who had reached old age. Finnish word for thunder ukkonen is derived from the name Ukko. He was the god of fertility, agriculture, community, luck, abundance, people, communication, thunder, lightnings, rain and the sky. In many cultures thunder gods are connected to warfare but Ukko was a very peaceful god. He was also god of love and relationships, fertility of the land and the fertility of the people.
Vakka means sacrifice. During ukon vakat food sacrifices were left for Ukko. These were usually bread, bear and grain. Ukon Vakat was a communial celebration. Several groups of people gathered together to celebrate. Festivities usually took a place in a hill near water. Summer was the time when all four elements emerged together and the landscape where Ukon Vakat was celebrated reflected that. Celebration included good food, drinking, bonfires, music and dancing. Ukon Vakat was most often celebrated either during the Summer Solstice (20-22nd of June). In some villages Ukon Vakat was celebrated in the end of May or in the beginning of June if the weather was good.
Another Finnish name for Summer Solstice festival was Mittumaari which is derived from the Swedish Midsommar Fest -festival.
In the early Middle Ages the Catholic church wanted to get rid of Summer Solstice and other pagan celebrations. Name of the holiday was changed into Juhannus after Johannes Kastaja (John the Babtist). Johannes Kastaja already had his own celebration date in the old Finnish almanac. This date was 4th of June. The church ordered these two festivities to be emerged. New date was set to 24th of June which became new official date for Juhannus. This date remained the same all the way to 1950´s when the date was updated for the new Finnish almanac. It was decided that Juhannus would always take place in Saturday between 20-22nd of June. Celebration was returned back to it´s original place. In modern day Finland Juhannus is a national holiday. It is also officially a non-religious holiday (despite of it´s name). For most Finns Juhannus is a long weekend which starts on Friday and ends on Sunday. Modern day celebrations includes good food, drinking and litting bonfires.
Artist and Illustrator. Mythology and Folklore enthusiastic. Keen traveler. Comes from Finland. Likes cats, tea, and such.