On the longest day of the year in Copenhagen, the sun rose at about 4:30AM and set at 10PM. Residents of Denmark honor the solstice by celebrating Sankt Hans Aften (Saint John’s Evening). This tradition stretches all the way back to pagan times, and was historically a time when healers gathered medical supplies for the remainder of the year.
Here in Copenhagen, large bonfires are lit – once thought to ward off evil spirits. In the 1920’s they began putting a witch made of straw or wood at the top of the bonfire as remembrance of the church’s witch burnings from 1540 to 1693. This burning sends the “witch” away to Brocken mountains in Germany where the great witch gathering was thought to be held on this day. Some Danes regard the relatively new symbolic witch burning as inappropriate.
We celebrated Sankt Hans Aften by gathering along the lake near our home and enjoyed a fun evening with family (Grandma & Grandpa arrived that day for a visit from the US!). We met up with friends and enjoyed hot dogs, beer and jazz music. A chorus of “Vi elsker vort land…” (“We Love Our Country”) was sung (have I mentioned before the Danes LOVE to sing?) and we were introduced to snobrødbagning (twisted bread baking).
Some more photos of touring Copenhagen with Grammy & Grandpa – Day 1-4