June 24 marks Europe’s midsummer holiday – the official day of the solstice and an excuse to party in celebration of the warmer weather. While it’s most famous in Scandinavia, Finland and Estonia, other countries such as Greece and Spain also have their own traditions and festivities. If you’re looking for some last minute holidays, consider heading off to one of these countries for your very own midsummer night’s dream.
One of the most important holidays, Midsommarafton and Midsommardagen are largely celebrated by dancing around a maypole wrapped in flowers and leaves. Some Swedes dress in folk costumes while tourists can get in on the action by wearing a crown made out of wildflowers. Dancers sing traditional songs and snack one the first produce of the season, usually strawberries, potatoes and fish. It’s also a highly magical celebration – flowers under pillows encourage dreams about your future spouse, water drunk from springs could bring good health and greenery over houses brings good fortune.
The Finns now celebrate midsummer on whichever weekend falls closest to June 24, so make sure you check your calendars before booking. A unique feature of the Finnish celebrates revolves around the midnight sun, a natural phenomenon where the sun is visible for a full 24 hours. Midsummer is also the Day of the Finnish Flag which is hoisted at 6pm and flown until 9pm the next night.
Jaanipäev, or John’s Day, involves the ritualistic bonfires – the bigger the better. Legend has it that if you don’t burn a fire, you’re asking for your home to be destroyed in a blaze…so we definitely recommend taking part in the festivities! Join in the singing, dancing and drinking for a night you’ll remember forever – depending on how much you drink of course!
Shakespeare’s famous play ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is actually set in the Greece, so if you’re looking for an unusual way to celebrate midsummer this year, book a Zante holiday to recreate your very own fantasy. One of the most picturesque of the Greek Islands, celebrate with the locals in Zante by burning Mayday wreaths while daredevils jump and dance over the flames.
The Spanish are always looking for an excuse to party and the start of summer is more than enough reason. Expect beach parties and bonfires around every bend, with the coastal towns such as Barcelona and Valencia celebrating with special foods such as Coca de Sant Joan, a sweet treat with candied fruits and nuts.