Juhannus is the Finnish name for the midsummer holiday celebrated primarily in the Nordic and Baltic countries, but in others as well. It originated as a pagan holiday celebrating the summer solstice and was Christianized as “Juhannus” (St. John’s Eve) upon the arrival of, well, Christianity. Nowadays, the festival is celebrated by drinking, eating lots of good food, playing fun games, drinking, going to the sauna, burning stuff in a bonfire, drinking and grilling sausages. Oh, and there’s drinking, plenty of drinking.
As usual, the Woodsfamily spent Juhannus at my mother-in-law’s cabin in the country. Rather than showing you pictures of folks engaging in…ahem…traditional Juhannus activities, I thought I’d do a little show and tell with some random pics I snapped at the cabin and around the city.
First, a little wildlife. I was fascinated by these beautiful metallic-looking beetles drinking nectar from flowers:
Ducks enjoying a warm summer day:
And now for some plant life. Wild roses:
What’s this? A freak dusting of snow?
Nope, it’s copious quantities of seed fluff from some tree I have yet to identify. The bark looks like aspen bark, but the leaves look kind of like birch leaves. Any idea what kind of tree it is? Update: Thanks to a tip from Forest Turtle, I believe this tree is a black poplar (populus nigra), which is not native to Finland, as far as I know. Thanks FT! Update 2: Conrad pointed out that it is also known as a cottonwood poplar. Thanks!
A tradition in Finland (and perhaps other places as well) is to make a vasta (called a vihta in western Finland), which is a bunch of limber birch branches bound together and used for self-flagellation and spouse or friend abuse in a hot steamy sauna. While my mother-in-law gathered the branches, I made some cordage out of willow bark. Here’s the “Finnish’d product”. 😉
And here’s where we used them, a sauna with a wood-burning stove. I forgot to take the stool off the lower bench before taking the picture, but you get the idea.
The entire weekend, mosquitoes, black flies and gnats were on a mission to see me shrivel up like a raisin due to a lack of blood. Though I tried to resist, I ended up scratch-scratch-scratching away. I must have hit an artery at one point, because I started bleeding from one small spot and it didn’t seem to want to stop. Remembering that my favorite wild edible broadleaf plantain has astringent and wound-healing properties, I chewed up a small leaf and put the poultice on the spot in question. This stopped the bleeding immediately, and it did not continue after removing the plantain a few minutes later (excuse the bug-bitten, dirty leg…).
At one point during the weekend, I saw this boat in the city harbor. It’s a traditional Finnish-style boat which has been waterproofed with a pine tar/pitch.
And last, but not least, I leave you with a Juhannus bonfire over the water. This shot was lovingly captured by the Woodsbabe around midnight.
Hope you enjoyed this random selection of pictures!