Juhannus by Brian Pelto
Kokko during Juhannus in Seurasaari, Finland, 1999 by Erick Leskinen
Juhannus, as the summer solstice is called in Finnish, celebrates the birth of John the Baptist, or Johannes. Traditionally, in the towns and villages of Finland the building of a kokko, a huge bonfire, begins in the days leading up to Juhannus. Old boats and cast-off lumber are stacked up to create the distinct conical shape of the kokko. Customarily, the kokko is ignited on the eve of Juhannus, after entertainment and feasting by the celebrants. Folk songs, typically accompanied by the national Finnish musical instrument the kantele, a lutelike stringed device first mentioned in the Finnish national epic the Kalevala, are enjoyed by all. National costumes in regional variations bring life to the ethnic dances known as tanhut. Men, women and children alike participate in often-raucous polkas and waltzes.