Winter in Scandinavia can be brutal. Not only is the weather very cold, there are also very limited periods of sunshine during the day once winter has taken hold. In some of the northern parts of Finland, Norway, and Sweden (which are above the Arctic Circle) the sun never rises for part of the winter! This results in some stunning natural phenomena, like the Northern Lights, but can be a difficult season to endure for some of the locals. It’s no wonder then that Midsummer is the second biggest holiday in the Nordics after Christmas. This ancient celebration dates back to pre-Christian times, celebrating the people’s hope for a good summer and harvest season. Learn more about how to celebrate this event in Scandinavia below.
Danish Sankt Hans Aften
In Denmark, Midsummer is known as Sankt Hans Aften or St. John’s Eve. According to local legend, it was believed that Midsummer night was charged with special power and witches would come out. To keep these evil forces away people would burn great bonfires. Today, these bonfires are topped with witches made out of old clothes and hay. Before the bonfires are lit, people will sing the midsommervise (midsummer hymn): “Vi elsker vort land…” (“We love our land”), a romantic hymn about peasant life.
Experience Sankt Hans in Copenhagen with the Radisson Blu Scandinavia Hotel, located near the trendy Islands Brygge where there will be various activities for both children and adults.
Finish Juhannus or Midsommar
Finland actually gives Midsummer two names, depending on whether you are Finnish speaking (Juhannus) or a Swede-Finn (Midsommar). Finland’s Flag Day is also celebrated on the same day, so Finnish flags are can be seen all around the country from Midsummer’s Eve to the evening of the following day. Bonfires, called kokko, are very popular throughout the country – especially those lucky enough to be near a lake. These bonfires are linked to beliefs concerning fertility, cleansing, and the banishing of evil spirits.
Spend Midsummer in Finland by leaving all the hustle and bustle behind by taking the time to enjoy some relaxation in nature, by enjoying a wood pellet heated sauna, or by dipping in to the sea. At this time of year, the Finns also enjoy eating foods that come straight from the ground and our Juhannus treats are potatoes, carrots and other root vegetables, wild herbs as well as fish. The Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Helsinki restaurant offers exactly that kind of cuisine where the flavours are a pure taste of the north, bringing together the freshest Nordic ingredients with the latest and most up-to-date food trends.
In Norway, Midsummer is referred to as sankthans/sankthansaften, or Saint John's Eve. Today, sankthans is celebrated with an all-night party outdoors that includes a bonfire by a lake or on the coast line, music, games and lots of food. Many people take their boats out for the occasion and watch the bonfires from the sea. The bonfire is the most important symbol of the Norwegian sankthans celebration.
The Radisson Blu Scandinavia Hotel, Oslo is located a 20 minutes’ walk away from Tjuvholmen, which is one of several places in Oslo where a sankthans celebration is organized. If you prefer to stay inside, Radisson Blu Scandinavia Hotel’s Summit Bar offers amazing views over the city and Oslofjord. You might even be able to spot some bonfires while enjoying a cocktail.
The Swedes probably throw the biggest celebration for Midsummer of all the Scandinavian countries. Midsommar celebrations start on Midsummer Eve, with the raising of the majstång, or maypole. The majstång is a tall pole that is completely covered with flowers and leaves, most often birch leaves and twigs. People often begin the day by picking flowers and making wreaths to place on the maypole, which is a key part of the celebrations.
Midsummer Eve is a night filled with magic and mystery for Swedes; and there are many romantic legends surrounding young women and their future husbands. It is said that on their way home, young women should pick seven different types of flowers and lay them under their pillows. That night their future husbands will be revealed to them in their dreams. Another old tradition is for girls to eat salted porridge so that their future husbands might bring water to them in their dreams. Enjoy a prime location in Stockholm and experience the midsummer celebrations from Radisson Blu Royal Viking Hotel.