Every region in the world has its special and unique seasonal celebrations. One such is the summer solstice celebrated mid-year by some countries in the Northern Hemisphere.
Midsummer celebrations started out as a pre-Christian tradition in European countries where Vikings, Celts and other ancient settlers established communities. Today, every June, many countries, especially in the Nordic region–such as Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland–celebrate the longest day of the year and the midpoint of summer. Festivities usually fall on June 23rd or 24th, depending on the country. Celebrations also vary, although they are arguably the biggest in Sweden.
Today we're looking at some of the film photos from our community members taken during midsummer in the Nordic region, and hearing stories from Friederike Vogl (@milchtrinken) and Kim Antmark (@antmark) about the celebrations in their home countries of Denmark and Finland.
Let's dive into it!
In popular culture, midsummer has enjoyed more attention since the release of the film Midsommar in 2019. While the movie broke the idyllic nature of the festivities with horror, the actual celebrations nevertheless truly are magical and are a significant part of Nordic culture.
Midsummer is one of the most cherished traditions in the North, with celebrations usually lasting for days. Midsummer marks the season of fertility and harvest, and families often travel to the countryside to conduct large gatherings.
Across the Nordic countries, especially Sweden, maypoles adorned with plants are raised in open spots, and dancing and partying ensue throughout the day. Some of the famous food served during midsummer festivities include fresh potatoes, pickled herring, strawberries with cream, grilled fish and of course alcoholic drinks.
Bonfires are also lit throughout the countries in the evenings for good harvest and as part of the belief that fire can ward off evil spirits. In Norway, bonfires are arranged by groups or municipality due to a campfire ban during the season, while Finland takes a more relaxed approach with lakeside and seaside bonfires, being the land of a thousand lakes.
Finnish community member Kim Antmark (@antmark) shares more:
The atmosphere in Finland on midsummer depends greatly on where you’re spending the midsummer. If you happen to be in Helsinki, you’ll probably find the city at its most quiet state. It’s the small towns, villages and summer cottages are where all the fuss is at midsummer. Whether you spend your midsummer with your family or friends is purely a matter of personal choice. However, tradition dictates that you should try to find your way to a summer cottage preferably located by a lake.
Other midsummer necessities include sauna, grilled food (with cooked potatoes from the new crop), swimming and - with a little luck regarding the weather - enjoying the summer and the sun. And what everyone expects from the evening is of course the bonfire!
The best part about taking photographs during midsummer is the amount of light! The sunrise even in the southern Finland is around 4 AM and sunset around 11 PM so there’s not much need for high ISO films!
In midsummer it’s the people, the nature and the colors that I love to capture and preferably with some low ISO color negative film to offer saturated colors or expired slide film to cross process.
Meanwhile, Danish community member and graphic designer and illustrator Friederike Vogl (@milchtrinken) breaks down midsummer traditions particularly in Denmark:
Even though there are of course different local customs in how midsummer is celebrated, the atmosphere around this special time of the year is quite similar throughout the Nordic countries. After a long dark winter there's finally all this light again, and with that comes a lightheartedness you can sense everywhere around. People are enjoying those long bright days and are very much looking forward to summer.
Denmark’s big midsummer celebration is Sankt Hans Aften (aften = evening). It is celebrated on the evening of June 23, before it's Sankt Hans day on June 24, honoring John the Baptist. In the weeks leading up to Sankt Hans Aften, people are preparing huge bonfires. Often, those piles of wood are topped with a puppet that resembles a witch. Burning this witch puppet on the bonfire is a symbolic way of sending the witch away and through this keeping all kinds of evil away from the town and its inhabitants.
On Sankt Hans Aften, the bonfires are lit up, and people come together to celebrate around those fires. There's hygge, lots of food and drinks—and of course there's fællessang (= singing together). One song that should not be missing on that evening is Midsommervisen, a song that was written in 1885.
Furthermore, someone will be holding a speech at the fire (båltale = bonfire speech). This could be the mayor of the city, the head of the local tourist office or someone from a local association. The celebrations on Sankt Hans Aften don’t come to an end before the fires go out. And often the parties continue even after that.
I love taking pictures around midsummer. For me, this is not so much about the celebrations, but mostly about enjoying the outdoors. It's so good to finally get to be outside again—without freezing or having to protect your camera from rain.
The light on those long evenings is so beautiful! Sunsets and their afterglows seem to last forever, giving you the most amazingly colored skies and plenty of time to take pictures. Being at the beach for a sunset swim is one of the greatest pleasures of midsummer time for me.
We hope the light from the waning summer keeps us illuminated as we approach the shorter days!
We'd like to thank Friederike and Kim for sharing their midsummer photos and stories with us! To keep in touch, visit their LomoHomes. Do you have midsummer memories? How do you celebrate summer in your part of the world? Share it with us below!