Friday, July 3, 2009

Sankt Hans

The second thing I want to write about before I dash out of here on vacation: Also known as "St. John's Eve," Sankt Hans is a Northern European tradition to celebrate midsummer and the summer solstice and has been around since the time of the Vikings. In Denmark Sankt Hans always takes place on June 23. We heard about this celebration from friends and Alan's colleagues and decided to visit the Hobro marina to check out our local festivities. The first thing I noticed was the throng of people walking to the event site. It seemed that the entire town of Hobro was there. It was clear that this is an important annual tradition for Danes.

The second thing I noticed, or rather heard was the sound of beautiful American gospel music. Standing on the bed of a tractor trailer was a wonderful Danish choir singing the most soulful renditions of gospel. It was a sight to behold.

All around people were picnicking, buying cake or ice cream from vendors, drinking beer, laughing, playing, and--what caught my attention, roasting bread rolls on sticks like Americans do with marshmallows.

I surveyed the scene and noticed a woman doling out the raw dough to kids and adults alike. The dough gets applied to a stick and then one sits patiently (hard for kids!) while it cooks over a bed of hot coals. What a fun tradition.

I looked up Sankt Hans on Wikipedia and the other useful tidbits are that "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."

Every Sankt Hans has a big bon fire which is lighted to ward off evil spirits. "In the 1920s a tradition of putting a witch made of straw and cloth on the bonfire emerged as a remembrance of the church's witch burnings from 1540 to 1693. The burning sends the witch away to Bloksbjerg in the Harz region of Germany where the great witch gathering was thought to be held." While the fire burns, Danes sing Vi elsker vort land, "We love our country."

Enjoy the photos. Anatole was thrilled with all the dogs at the event, can you tell?! . Now I REALLY have to get going.

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