Music, Merriment and a Midsummer Meal for Mosquitoes (Me)
Midsummer is an important holiday for the Finnish people. It was first celebrated many years ago in Helsinki when a group of drunk Finns were sat in a bar, making their way through the establishment’s supply of the local brew. Just as the party was getting into full swing, the barman appeared from the cellar dressed in full riot gear with a grave announcement.
“We’re out of Beer”, the trembling man meekly whispered as he cowered behind his body armour.
Pandemonium erupted as the patrons of the bar ransacked the entire building, searching desperately for something to drink. But alas, the landlord had spoken the truth and the company of Finns spilled out onto the street to continue their quest for alcohol.
Much to their surprise, the merry band of friends were greeted by a terrifying sight. From every bar on the street, their intoxicated countrymen were stumbling onto the pavement in search of a drink. The reality hit them like the shock of an overheated sauna. Helsinki had run out of booze……
The rioting that raged through the capital that morning had never been seen before. However it did not last long as the shortage of beer caused many of the Finns to grow weary and take a nap. Dejected and lost without their beer, the Finns resigned themselves to the harsh reality of the hangover.
Until one man stepped forward with an idea. His name was Juhannus. He owned a summer cottage in the countryside that was filled to the brim with the finest Finnish beers. “Follow me!”, he cried, “And you shall drink beer again”. Within 15 minutes, Helsinki had become a ghost town as every Finn packed up their things and raced to the summer cottage. Once there, they drank and sung and sat in the sauna for two straight days. Juhannus was a hero and the Finnish people were saved from the evils of sobriety.
From that day forth, Finns have travelled to summer cottages across the country every midsummer to celebrate the miracle of Juhannus.
That story may or may not be true. I will leave that for you to decide. Either way, Juhannus is a big deal for Finnish people and having escaped to Estonia last year, this was our first time celebrating in Finland. We were invited by some friends of ours to join them at a summer cottage about an hour outside of Helsinki near Inkoo. A summer cottage is basically a large wooden house in the middle of nowhere with basic facilities. Every year, Finns head to their cottages for a weekend of drinking and fun.
Having arrived in the afternoon laden with beer, we were immediately challenged to defend the queen’s honour in a game of croquet. Of course we duly proceeded to give an expert education in the art of the come-from-behind victory, pipping all others to the post. We were subsequently informed that we had actually drawn with two other teams, but I refuse to believe this as anything other than confused Finns.
As is custom on any occasion where I am near musical instruments with booze in my hand, after about 6 pints I picked up the guitar and started shyly plucking away. I was soon joined by a number of others and soon we had a full-on sing song going which lasted for most of the night, stopping periodically for a game of petanque (a game the French made up because they couldn’t beat us at bowls). We were very fortunate to meet some very talented singers / guitarists / harmonicaists (?!) which made the evening all the more enjoyable.
Naturally there was plenty of sauna action too, which really helped with the hangover as I’m sure you can imagine. I was particularly fond of one gentleman who forgot to put his clothes on after he got out of the Sauna and joined in the sing along as nature intended. A highlight of the evening was the horror on Ama’s face as the naked man picked up his guitar and started to rock out….. There also seemed to be some confusion later on in the evening as someone proceeded to tell me and Ben “all about our George Bush!!!!”.
I am now sporting a rather extensive collection of mosquito bites. I cannot quite express just how many I have. They are all over me, from the top of my head to the soles of my feet. Itchy itchy itchy……
A great time was had by all and I will certainly remember my first Juhannus fondly. Thank you to Katja and Taneli for letting us come along. Thanks to Marski and Ama for inviting us too, even if we didn’t get any of the cheesecake.