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Finland - Dancing Under the Midnight Sun

One incredible night in Finland the sun shines bright

Story By Carly Milne

Pictures By Colleen Coplick

On my list of top ten places I need to see before I died, Finland was nowhere near that list. Not that I had anything against it, but growing up in Canada I was already familiar with wilderness and snow. Travel always meant white sand beaches with crystal clear blue water for me.

Finland Under the Midnight SunFinland Under the Midnight SunBut when I was invited to party under Finland's famed Midnight Sun over summer solstice in June, I jumped at the chance. Few opportunities are as unique as having the option to eat classic Finnish fare, drink incredible cocktail creations from the world's top mixologists, and play all day, all night, under a sun that never sets.

My journey began in Helsinki where I spent the first two days acclimating to Finnish life. I began each day with a trip to each of the 3 saunas offered at Hotel Glo and finished - no pun intended - with a bellyful of dark brown walnut honey bread, melt-in-your-mouth filet of beef and tree sap ice cream, which carried me off to sleep. But on the third day, I made my transition to the land of the Midnight Sun in Kittila, Lapland. I boarded a chartered FinnAir flight with 400 other invited guests from 30 countries and wondered what I was getting myself into.

First, a little history on the Midnight Sun event. The party is thrown by Finlandia Vodka, as the company wouldn't exist without the assistance of the Midnight Sun. Finland lay underneath a sheet of ice several Finlandia VodkaFinlandia Vodkameters thick over 10,000 years ago, which melted with the help of the Midnight Sun. This released a clear flow of glacial water that originated from a spring in Rajamaki, which is what Finlandia uses in its vodka. It's so pure that Finlandia doesn't ever filter it. The high grade six row barley that Finlandia uses ripens only in Finland, once again thanks to the Midnight Sun. Without the Midnight Sun, there'd be no Finlandia - hence the celebration.

Finland Under the Midnight SunMidnight Sun celebrations are an age-old tradition in Finland, and so highly regarded that it's actually a national holiday. Every year during this time the Finnish pack up their things and jam every possible transportation mode in an effort to get out to their cottages to celebrate.

The trip from Helsinki to Kittila was blessedly short, and busses whisked us away to our hotel, which was almost log cabin-esque. I had only a short while to freshen up before being ushered back onto the bus Under the Midnight Sunwith the rest of the group. The bus drove down the highway then turned off onto a dirt road, and stopped. In the middle of nowhere. Well, there were trees... but nothing else.

Everyone got off the bus and watched it drive away as we all sprayed each other with Off - Finland's wilderness is rife with mosquitoes - and wondered what was going to happen next.

Our group was led through the forest, down a path that weaved in and around the trees, dotted with Finnish performers that sang, beat drums, strummed guitars. Finally we reached a clearing that revealed a lake so still it might have been a mirror, which laid next to the party site that spread across a huge field.

Under the Midnight SunWe were greeted at Zone One, which was Pure Beginning - meant to mimic the ice age zone. Piles of snow decorated the grassy floor as we were handed shots of Finlandia mixed with tree sap and reindeer jerky - all while we greeted authentic reindeer and their handlers. Talk about awkward. Isn't it bad form to eat the animal you're meeting on the way in to a party?

Then we were led us into Zone Two, Pure Celebration, which offered us the chance to try authentic Finnish food. Creamy Angelica soup, made with Angelica herb native to temperate and sub arctic regions, warmed us before we transitioned into dining on salmon, reindeer and grilled vegetables. Dessert was lingonberry crepes, but there was too much fun to be had elsewhere.

Next to the eating area, a stage boasted hot Finnish Under the Midnight Sunacts like the award-winning Kwan, Accu (known as being a mix between Abba and Yello), and the highlight of the evening, Hemma Beast. Playing an eclectic mix of classics with their own twist - like "Simply the Best" by Cher and "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson - Hemma Beast succeeded in getting everyone dancing... and away from the fortune tellers.

Dotted throughout the Pure Celebration zone were various stations providing entertainment. The Under the Midnight Sunaforementioned fortune tellers - of which there were 3 - all had their own version of foreseeing the future, while both sober and drunken revelers attempted to pour vodka in strategically placed glasses using ropes to guide a suspended bottle. Baby reindeer played in a nearby pen - likely unaware that they'd be made into jerky one day - and revelers were given the option of having a Finnish baptism.

But as the night wore on, more and more people were taken with wearing the Midnight Sun amulet. In a large tee-pee next to the eating area, people circled a fire, waiting their turn to unravel a naked amulet from a tangled mass of maroon ribbons bearing a small wooden disc. Once the necklace was untangled, an attendant handed over a brand for you to burn the image of the Midnight Sun on your amulet. In terms of souvenirs, this was definitely a unique and memorable one.

I was admittedly skeptical about the reality of the Midnight Sun. Natives in any area of the world love to tell tall tales to the tourists, so I figured that there was going to be some kind of creative interpretation of the sun staying up all night. But sure enough, when everyone gathered at the lake to watch it be set aflame at midnight, the sun hung in the air as if it were noon. When we circled the bar to partake in award-winning cocktails - like the fresh and fruity Spring of Life, the sweet and tangy Midnight Dew, and the amazingly delicious Midnight Spell - we barely noticed it was getting close to 1:30am.

By the time the DJ Slow took the stage to spin dancy tracks from Madonna, it was hard to believe it was almost 3am. In fact, everyone booed when we were told it was time to go back to the hotel at 3:30. It still looked like it was the middle of the afternoon.

It may not have been at the top of my Must-See list, but taking a trip to Finland to party under the Midnight Sun has quickly become one of my top 10 all time favorite trips. I highly recommend finding a way to make it out to the next Midnight Sun event in 2008 - it's really a sight to behold, and something that needs to be experienced to get the full effect.

Now, if only I could recreate those cocktails at home...

For more information on the Midnight Sun event, visit Finlandia Vodka online.

Read more of Carly's articles on GoGirlfriend:

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Wow, you got u me hooked. I want to go to the 2010 party. Do you have any information about when it will take place this year? And how can I arrange a trip similar to yours? Eagerly awaiting to hear from you. Cheers!

Hi I will like to know what is the dress attire...and if you are able to wear high heel shoes? The weather was really cold...or with the Vodkas it got hoter? thanks

I got invited by a friend who was going and had the opportunity to take someone, but I know that Finlandia has contests and whatnot that will fly people out there. Keep an eye on their website, 'cause I think they post information about it leading up to the event.

OK! I didn't know the history either. Looks like a great party and environment. So, How did Carly get invited?

I never knew the history of Finlandia Vodka - that's awesome!

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