Midsummer (Juhannus) is the best holiday of the year in Finland. After a long, dark, cold winter, large bonfires are lit (in the olden days, to drive out bad sprits), flower wreaths are woven (and placed under young girls’ pillows to conjure dreams of a future spouse) and the Finns break out of their peaceful solitude and get loud and rowdy for once!
In fact, the wilder, the better, according to local mythology; it helps crop production and fertility! Still today, Finns keep the Norse gods happy by sauna-ing, lighting massive fires, swimming and making merry well into the wee hours on the lightest day of the year, under the all-night, mid-summer sun.
Since I couldn’t be there for the real thing this year, I threw my own Summer Solstice party with some recipes inspired by the Finnish forests, meadows and seas; I broke out my mom’s Iitala glasses and punch bowl and some beautiful hand painted Finnish birch (koivu) napkin’s from Kamppinen, by Heidi Wittanen, another Finish American living in Nashville! We gathered at my friend’s farm in Kingston Springs, Tennessee and had lakka berry sweet tea punch (nothing more Finno- Tennessean than that!), rye crisps, smoked salmon rolls, rakka berry tarts, birch and blueberry tea and smoked tea licorice vodka shots for the brave amongst us (not me!).
Next year, I hope to be dancing naked around a bonfire in middle Finland but this will do for now!