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Sankt Hans Aften (Midsummer) 2021

A Nordic tradition, celebrated on the night before the Midsummer's Day

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Midsummer's Eve or Sankt Hans Aften is a relic of pagan customs, where the shortest day, the winter solstice, and the longest day, the summer solstice, were celebrated. Originally it was believed that midsummer night was filled with magical forces of nature—both good and bad. All herbs and sources were particularly sacred, and it was a tradition to seek sacred springs or pick healing herbs on this night.

Sankt Hans Aften, Amager, Denmark 2020
Sankt Hans Aften, Amager, Denmark
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The tradition of burning bonfires came along a bit later. Originally they were not associated with Midsummer's Eve celebration, although later some farmers who believed in witches started to burn bonfires on this night. A shape that looks like a witch was put in the fire. The purpose of the fire was to scare the witches and evil spirits away, rather than burn them.

Today, the Midsummer's Eve is still celebrated with bonfires, dancing, singing and a traditional speech from someone well known in the community. The celebrations are held all around the country, both in cities and small towns.

Sankt Hans aften, Solrød Strand, Sjælland, Denmark 2020
Sankt Hans aften, Solrød Strand, Sjælland, Denmark
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Some of the most vibrant celebrations take place in Copenhagen, Odense, Aarhus, and Skagen. The capital has bonfires at several places, including Tivoli Gardens, Frederiksberg Gardens, Islands Brygge, and more. Likewise, Aarhus offers quite a few locations to celebrate, such as Aarhus University campus, Godsbanen, or Langenæs Church. In Odense, the festivities take place at Engen in the Fruens Bøge forest. At last, the remote Skagen promises an exceptional celebration. Thousands come to the northern tip of Denmark to enjoy traditional songs at the bonfire that lasts here longer than anywhere else in the country.

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