Sankthans in danish or in english; Saint John’s Eve is a big tradition in Denmark and Scandinavia. We do not traditionally celebrate midsummer solstice on the 21st of June, paganism is not big here. However we celebrate midsummer by burning a bonfire with a witch on top, tonight the 23rd June.
(Find more on Wikipedia; Saint John’s Eve)
Tomorrow is Saint John’s Day and like Christmas we Scandinavians celebrate it the night before.
Of course this tradition (as so many others) has a direct line to pagan times. When Denmark was christened, the priests reinterpreted the pagan rituals into new Christian traditions often by changing the dates also.
Traditionally midsummer solstice was celebrated with bonfire, singing, dancing and lots and lots of booze. The believed magic in the air was used to scare off evil spirits, predict who you would marry and all herbs are said to be especially powerful around midsummer.
When Denmark was christened, this was no longer acceptable behaviour.
Saint John became the light in the dark pointing at Jesus and the celebration date was moved.
The witch was actually not introduced until the 1920ies. There’s been a lot of discussions the later years on whether it’s suppressing women or not. I won’t go into this discussion, to me the witch is the symbol of evil and can be both male and female…
Anyway, every town and village in Denmark we have a person – typically a politician – to give a speech, then we sing the Midsummer Song and the bonfire is lid. The witch is, by the way, sent off to Bloksberg (Brocken) in Germany, where they are said to have a feast…
Imagine – back in ancient times a bonfire in every village, on every hill. Imagine that your could see the bonfires being lit, one by one….
After that, there’s music and beer – so much for Christianity…
Tonight the weather was cold and windy. The last many weeks we’ve had a fire ban and tonight still 50% of Denmark was not allowed to light the bonfire. However, we were allowed in my town Brande (funny, this means “the place with fires” in Danish) and we had a really nice evening.
The neighbour to tonights bonfire, tried to make the biggest bonfire – I’m sure he was not only burning wood, but also cables and old tyres ?