Midsummer Poles

Åland's Midsummer poles are a fixture on the summer landscape. Up to 25m tall, the whitewashed spruce poles are a cross between a mast and a totem pole. Each village usually has at least one, decorated in a public gathering the day before Midsummer with leaves, ribbons, tissue paper, miniature flags and various trinkets, the nature and symbolism of which differs from place to place. Atop the poles is the Fäktargubbe, a figure representing toil and diligence. Other motifs include sailing boats, ears of corn representing the harvest, a wreath symbolising love, a sun facing east and other icons of community togetherness. Once raised, the pole then stands until the following Midsummer.

When the Midsummer pole came to Åland remains a mystery. Although some theorists believe that the pole is a manifestation of an ancient fertility rite, its origins on Åland itself are probably more recent. Others point to the resemblance to ships’ masts, with cross spars and cords, which suggests an appeal to a higher power for safe seas.