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Easter Bonfires Light up Gloria Saturday

Traditional Easter bonfires lit up the skies across Finland on Gloria Saturday, the last day of the Holy Week, before Easter Sunday.

Pääsiäiskokko lumisessa maisemassa Sievissä, Keski-Pohjanmaalla.
Pääsiäiskokot tai -valakiat syttyvät lauantaina Pohjanmaalla, mutta eivät Kuusankoskella. Image: YLE / Heli Mäkikauppila

In Finland lighting Easter bonfires is an age-old practice rooted in central and northern Ostrobothnia, where it is believed that fire will keep witches at bay, while burning a straw effigy will ensure a good crop.

It’s also believed that trolls will attempt to steal from others, performing acts such as milking the neighbours’ cows or cutting the hair of domestic animals.

Nowadays the bonfire ritual has evolved into an occasion for communities to gather together, and for different organizations and associations to engage in fundraisers.

This year the Easter bonfires are expected to light up the landscape across Ostrobothnia. The community in Lestijärvi has constructed a massive bonfire. Another will be torched in Aspegren’s garden centre in Pietarsaari and will burn throughout Saturday night, said Manager Carina Wikman.

“A lot of people normally attend. The bonfire is a tradition in this area. Often these fires are lit in the country. Sometimes there are about 100 people at a time looking at the fire. This is not a sales promotion for us, and passersby can come and look at the fire without purchasing anything. There is no entrance fee, but we do sell sausages and waffles. Last year was a record for us, and every year the turnout is bigger,” she added.

The bonfire tradition has spread from southern and central Ostrobothnia to other parts of Finland. Helsinki’s Seurasaari Foundation and the Association of Central and Northern Ostrobothnians will stage their own bonfire event on Saturday evening.

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