Last week I talked a bit about one of my favorite summer pastimes and how it brings me closer to my Danish roots each and every summer. This week another one of my most favorite outdoor activities was celebrated as Danes gathered around the bål (bonfire) to celebrate Sankt Hans Aften (St. John’s Evening).
If you happened to miss it, this past Sunday was the longest day of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere. Aside from my weekly visit to The Danish Home for Sunday coffee and to visit with Mormor, it hadn’t even crossed my mind. Here in America midsummer is not met with much celebration or fanfare. However, the summer solstice has had significant meaning for many civilizations throughout history. In some countries today, including Norway and Denmark, midsummer is still a celebrated occasion.
This past Tuesday loads of Danes gathered around shores, beaches, parks and town squares to have picnics, share båltale (bonfire speeches), and, of course, sing the beloved Vi elsker vort land (We Love Our Land) midsommervise (midsummer hymn) while awaiting the evening’s feature attraction. In its most simplistic explanation, Sankt Hans Aften is a wonderful excuse to enjoy a beautiful summer evening gathered with friends and family around a cozy bonfire.
Historically, the midsummer significance of a bål was to ward off evil spirits and ensure a successful harvest season. Later, it was rededicated to honor Saint John the Baptist. In the late 19th century the tradition of topping the bonfire with effigies of a witch began, and is still practiced today.
Sankt Hans Aften is yet another example of Danish tradition bringing people together to have a good time. Now, it may be due to my own personal ideology that no bonfire is complete without chocolate (I guess you can throw marshmallows and graham cracker in there too), but all joking aside, there is just something about gathering around the warm glow of a fire in the evening that makes it feel like summer has arrived!
However you celebrate, Glad midsommer (happy midsummer) to you!
Come celebrate with The Danish Home of Chicago this Sunday for their Annual Summer festival!
There are only a few days left to enter the June giveaway for your chance to win a brand new vintage bicycle! Subscribe to The Hope Chest and be in the know for each month’s giveaway.