I can’t tell you my Finnish joke because I told you in 2008. It was in a post entitled “Tonight Is The Night To Drink Like A Finn!” but I now understand that this week is the week to drink – and eat – like a Finn:
The amount of sausage Finns consume during the Midsummer week is approximately three times as large as normal. For example the Midsummer sales of the food producer HK’s grill sausages amount to almost a million kilogrammes, reports Antti Paavilainen, Senior VP of sales at HK. And with their sausages Finns want to drink beer. Lots of it. Around 4.5 million litres of beer are sold around Midsummer – about 50 per cent more than during normal weeks.
Apparently, it all happens at the back country cottage, especially in the sauna: “…traditional saunas right down to the wood fire that’s best lashed with beer to give the steam the yeasty flavour of a bakery.” So, you drink beer in a sauna that reeks of beer and, no doubt, soon come to be soaked in beery sweat, too. That does not sound too bad. And that’s not fiery enough, you are supposed to trot off to the bonfire to top off the day before another round of beer and sausage.
This cartoon from a guy called Seppo seems to sum it up.
Have I ever told you my Finnish joke? I heard it years ago on a BBC World Service show on the cultural nature of Finns. The joke goes like this. Two Finns go to a cabin in the woods for a week of drinking. On the second day one Finn says to the other “shouldn’t we have something to eat?” to which he received the reply “did we come here to drink or to talk?”
I’ve been fascinated by Finland ever since I read all those John Le Carre spy novels about people crossing, hiding near or being shot at the Soviet Finnish border. When I was a backpacking kid in the 1980s, my Parisian hotelier upon hearing we were disembarking for Luxembourg suggested we might as well go to Finland if we were intent on finding a true absence of anything interesting. Yet we learn today that it is “Vapunaatto” or “Walpurgis Night.” I think I have heard of the latter but I have apparently been operating under the assumption that former was a Micronesian island state.
Well it turns out that I was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see as now I know that today in Finland as well as eastern Scandinavia and Germany, this is party night. Plenty more details are here and here and here and here but essentially you have to wear a student cap on your head (as illustrated), put on your old style spyfrack or “vomit frock” and head out into the pasty crowd for some good old gorging on sima, a homemade mead carbonated with yeast. The BBC reports:
The students use the festival as an opportunity to get blind drunk, and in the capital, Helsinki, tradition sees the “capping” of the statue of the mermaid Havis Amanda (the “darling of the sea”) spraying her with champagne and adding soap to the fountain at her feet to signal start of the party!
What good fun! It appears to be May Eve or the beginning of spring…or the end of college…or the “hey is that sima!” festival.