As you may know, we at BCC are big fans of the liturgical calendar. So I wanted to give a big shout-out to St. John’s Day, or as it is known in Finnish, Juhannus. It is celebrated here this year on the 21st, the Saturday closest to the June equinox. For, as you may already know, St. John’s Day is basically the celebration of Midsummer, the longest day of the year.
In Finland, Juhannus is arguably the second most important holiday after Christmas, and is almost entirely non-commercial. We head out to the countryside, spend the midsummer’s eve by a lake, decorating the cottage with birch branches and flowers, singing (and sometimes dancing), cooking sausages and burning bonfires, followed by a late-night sauna. (I’m posting this days early because I’ll be in the wilderness for the weekend.) The idea is to ritually take contact with nature in the company of your family on one of the longest days of the year. And there is no mistaking the length of the days: while the sun does set for a few hours a night this far south, it is easily light enough to read outside all night.
There is nothing Christian perceivably about Juhannus, and there doesn’t seem to be any need to put the John back in St. John’s Day. As anyone will guess, the rituals of the day are pre-Christian, to use a popular euphemism. But I think they’re lovely. It is an official, store-closing recognition of the fineness of summer, to give thanks for the light and whatever warmth can be derived from it: and to take a deep breath before the darkness of winter reclaims the land and its inhabitants.
Happy St. John’s Day.