Sankt Hans Aften (Summer Solstice)

by | Apr 14, 2019 | History | 1 comment

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In Denmark, the celebration of the summer solstice is called Sankt Hans Aften (“St. John’s Eve”). It was an official holiday until 1770, and in accordance with the Danish tradition of celebrating a holiday on the evening before the actual day, it takes place on the evening of June 23.

It has been celebrated since the times of the Vikings by visiting healing water wells and making a large bonfire to ward away evil spirits. Today the water well tradition is gone. Bonfires on the beach, speeches, picnics and songs are traditional. In the 1920s, a tradition of putting a witch made of straw and cloth on the bonfire emerged as a remembrance of the church’s witch burnings from 1540 to 1693. This burning sends the “witch” away to Bloksbjerg, the mountain Brocken in the Harz region of Germany where the great witch gathering was thought to be held on this day.

Sankt Hans Aften is celebrated by a camp-out on the Saturday closest to the summer solstice (Midsummer) and is a family event. Our traditions involve a horseshoe tournament, kids’ games and sammenkomst (potluck lunch).

At dusk, a huge bonfire is lit, songs are sung, snøbrod is baked on a stick and the crowd cheers when the flames get high enough to consume the witch.

Sounds a bit scary, but it’s really a lot of fun for all! Join us!!

1 Comment

  1. Freja Meincke

    Traditions help cement continuity as a society. They are celebrations and customs handed down from one generation to the next. Sankt Hans is generally celebrated with a dinner at home with family and friends followed by a stroll to a community bonfire, often by the beach or on the shore of one of Denmark’s many lakes.

    Reply

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