An official holiday until 1770, in Denmark the solstitial celebration is called ‘sankthans’ or ‘sankthansaften’ (“St. John’s Eve”). In accordance with the Danish tradition of celebrating a holiday on the evening before the actual day, it takes place on the evening of 23 June: it is the day where the medieval wise men and women (the doctors of that time) would gather special herbs that they needed for the rest of the year to cure people. Speeches, picnics and songs are traditional, bonfires are lit on the beach, on the shores of lakes or other waterways, in parks… in order to repel witches and other evil spirits away to Bloksbjerg, the mountain in Germany where the great witch gathering was thought to be held on this day. On Saint John’s Eve and Saint John’s Day, churches arrange Saint John’s worship services and family reunions also occur, which are an occasion for drinking and eating. In 1885, Holger Drachmann wrote a ‘midsommervise’ (Midsummer hymn) called “Vi elsker vort land…” (“We Love Our Country”) with a melody composed by P.E. Lange-Müller that is sung at most bonfires on this evening.
Denmark, History, Midsummer, Scandinavia, Society