Midsummer is pretty much THE holiday in Finland. Its always celebrated on a weekend (regardless of the actual solstice day) so people have plenty of time to eat and drink a lot.
Most families seem to have some kind of summer home. A summer home has just a few requirements: a sauna, a location adjacent to water, able to accommodate a sizeable group, and have plenty of mosquitos. 🙂
For Midsummer, you gather a group of friends and family, then spend the weekend eating, drinking, playing lawn games and taking saunas. So that’s what we did! Our friend Johannes was kind enough to invite us to his family’s summer house, which was about 90 minutes north of Helsinki.
The weekend included 10 adults, 3 children, and a poodle. Though the house looked small from the outside, there were bedrooms hidden everywhere! Everyone had a place to sleep, and a seat at the kitchen table.
This group of friends has been spending midsummer together regularly for 10 years or so… they were all friendly, welcoming, and super-interesting people. I suspect it was less drinking than some midsummer celebrations given that 3 of them compete in triathalons (one of whom is a pro athlete), but that also probably saved me a vicious hangover. (And made me feel lazy since they would go for 3 hour bike rides or 2 hour swims.)
We were requested to bring dessert for the group. We each tried to prepare something in the kitchenette of our hotel before heading to the house, but given the difficulty of finding the ingredients we needed in the grocery store and the ill-equipped hotel kitchen, we decided to bring s’mores as backup. (Graham crackers do not exist in Finland – we improved with some cookies.) We decided to make the s’mores in the interest of cultural exchange.
Meghan’s oatmeal choc chip cookies also went over well, and now her family recipe has international distribution.
We basically spent the days preparing meals, eating meals, and cleaning up from the meals, with a little bit of activity in the afternoon. My favourite was a game called Mölkky, which is a little bit like lawn bowling meets billiards, but instead of rolling a ball to score, you basically throw a small log at the pins. (Seems like an appropriate Finnish twist)
At one point while we’re all playing, a bee flew up my skirt and got trapped in my dress. Being very careful not to spill the wine in my hand or flash the group, I quickly managed to find a spot to safely place my wine glass before entering a complete freakout – throwing my phone across the lawn, falling on the ground, flailing my skirt around, screaming – ultimately getting stung and making a spectacle of myself. I guess it was a good way to break the ice.
Every night we’d take turns in the sauna – women would go together, then men (or vice versa). The ritual is to sit in the wood-burning sauna for as long as possible, then jump in the freezing river, then repeat. Its surprisingly relaxing & refreshing, despite the cold water and trying to thwart the mass of mosquitos waiting to feast on you as you’re running between the sauna and the lake.
All in all, it was a really relaxing and fun way to spend midsummer with a really lovely group of folks!