Thursday, 24 June 2010

Midsummer (Sankt Hans Aften)

In Denmark, it is a tradition that stretches all the way back to pagan times, when it was considered a celebration of the solstice. It is celebrated by lighting a large bonfire on the beach.
Historically, it was also a time when healers gathered medical supplies for the remainder of the year.

Instructions on how to celebrate Sankt Hans Day
taken from e-How

You will need:

* Blanket
* Chair
* Twigs and old clothes (optional)
* Picnic food
* Picnic basket

1. Head to the beaches on the night of June 23. Traditionally, the fires lit for Saint John are built all along the Danish coastline.

2. Purchase food and drink for a Danish picnic. Picnicking on Sankt Hans Aften remains a popular way to celebrate the holiday. Many cultural institutions, such as the Danish Museum, even host picnics on their grounds.

3. Build a witch effigy by tying sticks together in the shape of a person, and then placing clothes over the frame. Many Danes today have adopted the German tradition of placing a scarecrow-like effigy of a witch into the bonfires on the night of June 23.

4. Learn the lyrics to "Vi Elsker Vort Land." This is the national song of Denmark, and is sung while around the fire at nearly every Sankt Hans Aften celebration around Denmark.

5. Bring a chair and a blanket with you to the bonfires, as the beaches in Denmark can get quite cold in June.

6. Seek out a group of Danish teenagers who have recently graduated from high school. These kids participate in a new tradition in which they gather up all of their school notes and burn them in the Sankt Hans Aften bonfires to celebrate graduation.

7. Arrive at the coast early to select an area for yourself close to the fire. Before the fire is lit, there will likely be a speech by a local politician or writer, which means many people will arrive late, after the speech is over.