Juhannus 2006 - by James O'Sullivan
It seems that the celebration of the midnight sun here in Finland can be equated with the coming of the full moon and personal transformations that come with. Well, maybe not sprouting fur, claws and fangs, but a drunken mess of accidents, personal harm and setting fire to large piles of dead wood seem to be the way of it.
I was lucky enough to travel to a small island off the the Western shore to celebrate my first Juhannus with relatives. It all seemed harmless and peaceful. Beautiful surrounds, endless sunlight, good company and enough alcohol to kill a nordic pony. Everything still and quiet.
I'm not sure of the forces that influence the night, but things quickly turned on their head. Waiting to light the kokko (midsummer fire) my Uncle seemed to be taking a while to return from the call of nature. A quick check and we discovered his shoulder had mysteriously popped from its socket 'putting on a tight sweater', and he was lying face down in the sauna. I'm not sure if the fact he could barely walk due to intoxication previous to this had anything to do with it, but we weren't about to question him.
None of my relatives were in any state to drive a boat to the mainland, so we waited on the water ambulance to come and attend to him. So whilst he lay there screaming in pain, I tried to enjoy the flickering kokko, delighted to see similar fires burning along the shoreline, and wondering about the beauty of life and what the year might bring and other such alcohol-induced existential revelations.
When it came time to put the fire out, i reached into the sea to gather a bucket of water, slipped and fell off the rocks into the ocean. Giggling like a school girl, and thankful my head was still in one piece, i clambered onto the shore, drenched from head to toe and wandered back to the sauna where i sat curled up and shivering as my uncle snored, muttered unintelligible sentences and groaned whenever he moved.
And so, the water ambulance arrived around 3am, put my uncle on the boast with a selection of other hazardous Juhannus revelers, and sped him to the nearest hospital on the mainland where he remained for the night...
The rest of the weekend was a little more subdued, save for my aunt falling over the edge of the boat the next day and severely bruising herself.
Reading about Juhannus when I returned back to Helsinki the next day, it seems that our misfortune was not an isolated event. Some 11 people died over the weekend, 7 of them drowning! This was a typical number of fatalities for this celebration.
In the western town of Pietasari, 3 hectares of forest were destroyed when a campfire burned out of control! Stories of men accidentally skewering their eyeballs with sticks of hay in the ground when participating in a push-up competitions, and drunken fishermen drowning when standing and urinating off the edge of their boats seemed the norm. What on earth is this Juhannus?!?! It all seems to be a part of this crazed behaviour that's prevalent in the 3 months of light and sun that comes to Finland every summer.
9 months of doom and gloom, snow and rain and sub-zero temperatures, and suddenly the country is a-flood with wife carrying competitions, ant-hill sitting competitions, national 'no trousers day' and any excuse to drink beer and eat your body weight in sausages before 8am!
I think I'll be packing my helmet and life vest for Juhannus next year...
Work from Home, save money and help the environment
Now Playing: OVERFLOW - RUUHILAMPI
With temperatures below -20 degrees at the moment, and experiences like this one:
"It took me 1,5 hours to get to work today.
First, the bus I planned to take, never showed up. Then the next one came, but broke down. When i finally got to the train, it didn't go for 20 minutes. Then it went, really slowly, and then we passed Oulunkyla station and had to reverse (which took again some good time). So, all together 1,5 hours, while it is possible to make it in 35 minutes."
It makes you wonder why not more office workers are given the opportunity to work from home. Not only would it save a lot of hassle for the workers themselves, but also on the environment. If companies are anyways spending so much money on IT systems, why don't they implement systems that can temporarily double their office space simply by proxy and according to demand?
Surely everybody would agree?
Update: There was also a big accident on Lansivayla
, Lauttasaari, with a bus and a truck, where two people got injured.
Welcome to the Winter Wonderland!
Back to the roots
Now Playing: Black Uhuru - 2
Do not be surprised if after a couple of weeks from now you will find yourself on the streets of Helsinki surrounded only by foreigners. The disappearance of Finns is caused by the fact, that when summer holidays start, they all will move to their other home, which they call m?kki.
M?kki is basically a summer cottage, but most of Finns use it actually all year long. They escape there whenever they can: on weekends, on Christmas, on Easter and on national holidays etc. Those people, who don?t have their own m?kki, they?ll try to get an invitation to their friends? place or they will rent the m?kki from the camping providers.
One of the reasons for that kind of escape to the forests is Finns attempt to return to the roots. Many of nowadays ?citypeople? moved from the rural areas to the towns as late as in 1970?s. Lots of Finns have their (grand)parents still living in countryside.
The other reason for longing for empty space and quietness is the great appreciation of individualism. Finns like to live in their own environment and they give a high respect to the others who choose to do the same.
So they will pack their stuff, kids and a box of beer and head to the countryside to recover from the ?never-ending? winter and to get back to touch with their true being. And the summertime tourists in Helsinki can only wonder what the Finns really are like.
oobio, digistar, siki and others
A couple of days ago I found out that somewhere out there is a wrestling champion called Sweet Daddy Siki. First it was of course causing a big laugh. But then I started to think, what is behind of these kind of ridiculous nicknames?
Initially there were two reasons for nicknames. One was describing (appearance, behaviour or profession) and the other was abbreviating. Many ancient describing nicknames are now established last names: Long, Fox, Taylor etc. Lots of people use the abbreviation of their names, e.g. Bill instead of William etc. Nowadays the demand for nicknames has expanded since because of internet.
Nicknames can be fun. That's the case, when somebody finds a hitting and fitting alternative for somebody's real name, for example the Iron Lady for Margaret Thatcher or Ice-T for Tracy Marrow.
Nicknames can be a curse. That's in case when a person him/herself is not very fond of the way other people call him/her. For example, I don't believe the sitting president of the U.S. likes being called "Baby Bush".
I've personally "suffered" from nicknames such as Speller because of my professional cretinism which made me correct other people's language usage, and Bomber because of my clothing style when as a teenager. Share with us
your funny or disturbing experiences with nicknames!
Last day as an outsider
Tomorrow ten new countries are going to join European Union. Estonia is one of them. Thirteen years ago Estonia sang itself free from the Soviet Union. There has probably never been that kind of national unifying-feeling before and after than it was in the years 1988-1991 in my homeland.
Then lots of things started to happen: own constitution, own governmental system and free elections, own money, own foreign policy and finally negotiations with NATO and EU to become a member of those organisations.
These last 13 years were the times of economical and infrastructural growth; the times of mistakes and hard lessons, but also of positive recognition from other countries; the times of efforts for integration, but also struggles to preserve the Estonian identity.
This road is now walked down to its end. Estonia is a stable well-doing democratic country. Tomorrow, the blue-black-white flag will flap next to the other 24 in front of the EU headquarter in Brussels. Let's have today a nostalgic party of the last day as an outsider - those times won't come back.