Midsummer Celebrations on Europeana

Our intern Lauri Poutanen from Finland writes about the Midsummer celebrations in Europe

Midsummer (Swedish: Midsommar, Estonian: Jaanipäev, Finnish: Juhannus, Bulgarian: Enyovden, French: Fête de la Saint-Jean) started out as a pagan celebration related to summer solstice and fertility, but was then made a part of Christian traditions as Saint John’s day. In many countries, especially in northern Europe, it was believed that Midsummer was the time of year when nature’s power was strongest.  Mystic incantations echoed as magical enchantments were placed, sometimes to make someone fall in love with you, sometimes to secure the next harvest’s yield. A plethora of beliefs have been recorded and each country adds its own flavour:

A traditional Finnish Midsummer gathering from early 20th century

In Latvia, herbs were believed to be particularly strong on Midsummer’s eve. Collected herbs were used to cure the sick and cattle. In Spain, throwing fire to the Midsummer bonfire would show your future husband. In Finland, collecting seven flowers from seven different fields and placing them under your pillow invited your future husband to visit you in your dreams. In Ireland, jumping through the fiery bonfire three times would cleanse you from sins and disease.

Dancing around a maypole on Midsummer is a lasting tradition in Sweden

In Northern Europe, Sweden and Finland especially, it was believed that the long daylight made spirits restless and made them wander around. Bonfires were lit to keep the bad spirits away. They remain, to this day, at the very heart of Midsummer celebrations.

Europeana wishes you a festive Midsummer!


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