Sankthans aften

Shortly after midsummer, the day with the longest day and the shortest night, the whole of Vendsyssel in northern Denmark seems to be covered in smoke, and bonfires light up everywhere. It is celebration time, and that’s something the Danes excel in: throwing a party!

The original reason for the festivities seems to be, that the birthday of holy St. John was fixed to the 24th of June, as it is believed that he was born 6 months before Jesus (source: Wikipedia). The date is also very close to the summer solstice, giving this event an even deeper meaning for the northern countries, where the winter is dark and the summer may be short and fresh.

While the summer season is not so short and cold here in norther Jutland as it might be in Finland or the northern parts of Sweden and Norway, it is clearly a stronger difference than it is in our home in the south of Germany. One big difference is that it does not get dark anymore in the night. For someone new to these latitudes this is fascinating and sometimes even irritating.

So, there are enough reasons to party and light huge bonfires to celebrate this day. In Denmark many fireplaces bear the figure of a witch on top of the wood pile. This witch is to be burned on Sankthans to send it back to the Blocksberg, Germany. The objective of this rather rude procedure is, as with some other heathen customs, to scare of the evil and malicious ghosts. All this is accompanied with songs, sometimes speeches and – of course – alcoholic beverages.

This year we joined the celebration at Blokhus beach, where a big pile of assorted dry wood was used to burn an ugly figure depicting an really nasty exemplar of a witch. The crowd cheered happily when the witch finally tilted and burned in the bonfire, and all the evil things were sent away to wherever they belong. To me as a gemran it’s rather strange that at least the witch-group of these things shall be sent to Germany. But I took it not so personally.

Here are the pictures of this evening. I took a lot and already threw away the unshowable ones. Click for bigger images.

The beach is already full
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