Disappearing Finns: Midsummer in Finland

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This coming weekend is Midsummer in Finland. Midsummer is when Finns do a disappearing act and vanish from work and from the cities. In this blog, I’ll take a closer look at this disappearing act. 

But first, here are a few last-minute tips for this Midsummer. 

Midsummer in Finland in 2021

In another blog a few years ago, I explained why we celebrate Midsummer and how we do it. 

Last year, large Midsummer celebrations were banned in Finland. This year, celebrations are on again at least to some extent. 

For example in Helsinki, there are Midsummer celebrations in Mustasaari. Seurasaari is open for the public although the traditional Midsummer celebrations won’t take place this year. On Midsummer Eve afternoon, there’s music at the Helsinki Music Centre.

In Tampere, Särkänniemi amusement park is open. You can also celebrate Midsummer in Viikinsaari island. There’s also the possibility to hear live music at the Valtteri festival. Or, to really get into Midsummer, you can attend traditional Midsummer dances at Haikan lava in Pirkkala or Toivolan lava in Ylöjärvi

Some music festivals are back on this year. For example, Himos Midsummer is back on. So is Kalajoki Midsummer

To search for events in your own area, type “juhannus 2021” and the name of the city to see what’s going on around you. Hopefully, you will find something fun – and safe – to do.

Most likely we won’t be seeing the traditional bonfires this year, though, due to the forest fire warnings. 

Want to learn more about the nature around you? The “Your Neighborhood Nature in Finland” online course is a fun way to do just that. Get the course from our online store.

Disappearing Finns

If you are staying in the city, you’ll find it significantly calmer and emptier than on a normal summer weekend. And this is not just you thinking that, there’s data to back this up as well.

Ossi Nurmi and Pasi Piela from Statistics Finland have developed a Midsummer coefficient that describes the population of a place on Midsummer Day compared to a normal day. This coefficient is based on anonymized cell phone location data.

Nurmi and Piela have tracked fluctuations in domestic travel and population data from early 2020 onwards. In their comparison, population numbers on April 1, 2020, form the baseline. 

What they found was that in larger Finnish cities populations drop by 30 % on Midsummer. Kauniainen’s population drop by 50 %.

Places like Luhanka, Kustavi, Puumala, and Kuhmoinen, in turn, get an influx of people on Midsummer. Their population is almost four times as big on Midsummer as it is on a normal day. 

Below is a map of the Midsummer coefficient of Finnish municipalities. 

Dark blue indicates fewer people on Midsummer than normally. Deep red notes that the municipality has significantly more people on Midsummer than on normal days. The image includes a link to the Statistics Finland website where you can look for the coefficients of individual municipalities.

Map of Finland showing the Midsummer Coefficients of Finnish municipalities
The Midsummer Coefficients of Finnish municipalities from the Statistics Finland blog by Ossi Nurmi and Pasi Piela

Where did all the Finns disappear to?

All of these city-dwellers disappear to summer cottages. There are over half a million summer houses in Finland. It is estimated that 2.4 – 2.9 million Finns have access to a summer house. 

Nurmi and Piela’s mobile phone data from Midsummer 2020 show a clear peak in travel to and from summer-house-rich municipalities. Thus, Midsummer in Finland means a trip to the summer house.

The municipalities that have the largest number of summer houses are Kuopio (10 390), Mikkeli (10 159), Parainen (9 126), Savonlinna (8 666), and Hämeenlinna (8 184). The areas with the most summer houses are Varsinais-Suomi, South Savo, and Pirkanmaa.

The Corona pandemic threw the Finnish summer cottage market into a frenzy. From the summer of 2019 summer cottage sales in Finland rose by 41 % in the summer of 2020. In some areas, the increase was even bigger. For example, in Savonlinna the increase in sales was 68.3 %. 

One reason for this frenzy was obviously the lack of access to foreign travel. The other, though, was remote work.

In 2016, summer cottage owners were asked how many of them worked from their summer houses if they were able to. Only 7 % of the respondents said they had worked from there. In the most recent Summer House Barometer, 43 % of those who were able to work from their summer houses had done so.

The effect of the pandemic showed also in the number of days people spent in their summer house in a year. In 2016, the average number of days per year was 79. In 2021, it has risen to 103.

This frenzy has also affected the types of summer houses buyers have been interested in. Summer houses that have not been able to attract a single viewer have now found interested buyers. 

What are Finnish summer houses like

According to the 2021 Summer House Barometer, each summer house has about 4.7 regular users. Considering that the typical Finnish family size is 2.74 it is clear that summer houses are shared with extended families. 

The average distance to the summer house is 92 km. However, for Uusimaa residents the trip to the summer house is longer. For them, it’s 167 km on average. 

The average distance from the summer house to the nearest grocery store is 13.2 km. Most of the vacationers (55 %) use these local services to get their daily groceries. 

Although some Finnish summer cottages can be quite luxurious, that’s not the general rule. 

For example, only about 31 % of Finnish summer houses have a shower or washing machine. Only about 20 % have a dishwasher. An indoor toilet is also rare. Only about 23 % have that. A dry toilet is much more common (41 %). In another blog post, we provided you with a dry toilet survival guide. 

Summer houses naturally also have saunas. In December 2020, Finnish sauna culture was added to the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. You can brush up on interesting sauna facts here.

The overwhelming majority of summer houses had a fireplace or stove (88 %) as a source of heating. Just over half (54 %) also had electric heating.

No matter where you spend your Midsummer: HAVE A GREAT ONE!

Learn more about Finnish nature and all the things it can offer you. The course includes a 30-page recipe booklet to help you enjoy the offerings. Get our “Your Neighborhood Nature in Finland” online course from our online store.

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