Saints and Witches


3-10347227_10153277122226622_3209566026725744526_nToday is Saint John’s Eve, the eve of celebration before Saint John the Baptist’s birthday. It’s quite peculiar that what is commemorated here is the birthday and not the death of said Saint; usually it is their death day that is being honored. The Bible says that St. John was born 6 months before Jesus, so they fixed his b-day on June 24th. In Scandinavia – the feast is held the evening before – i.e. the 23rd of June, which is today. Yeeeeeey!

Now why am I so excited about this? I am an atheist and have no reason to celebrate religious feasts like St. Johns Eve and X-mas. Well, I have one reason: Bonfires! Big bonfires! The bonfires the kids look at with Awe!

The Feast of Saint John closely coincides with the June solstice, and that is actually what is celebrated. In fact – the way we celebrate was deemed immoral by the church all the way back from the Reformation in the 16th century.

In Norway the evening is called Sankt Hans or Jonsok, and the tradition is to gather around a large bonfire on the beach and have a nice time with family, friends and neighbors. It’s a celebration of summer, of the light summer nights. We roast hotdogs on a stick over the fire, chat, sing, dance, and laugh.

4-11216791_10153277122316622_1324512748192974970_nThe Swedes have the best celebration of St. Johns Eve; Midsommar Afton! (Midsummers eve) – originally a fertility festival. They eat a type of herring (really yummy) and raise a May Pole and dance around it. The old traditions have survived better in Sweden then in Denmark and Norway. Sweden is the place to experience this feast!

Here in Denmark the kids will make Witch dolls that they dress up in old clothes. The creator of the most evil looking Witch will be rewarded. Then they burn the Witches on the bonfire. (I am not particularly fond of that tradition, but hey – this time around it’s not real people being burned on grounds of false accusations of Witchcraft.) Other than that, it is as in Norway and Sweden – with family fun and partying and good fun.

Wherever you are – I wish you a fab Saint John’s Eve/Jonsok/Midsommar Afton/Thursday – with or whithout Saints and Witches!

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22 comments on “Saints and Witches

  1. Wow, interesting! I’d never heard about any of this before. Up in French Canada (a few hours from my hometown) the Quebecois have a celebration for John, which I think is also the midsummer. Any excuse for a picnic and a bonfire — looks fun!!

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  2. Interesting! St. Jean Baptiste day is a statutory holiday in Quebec, and is a huge celebration of French Canadian culture. Right next door in mostly English-speaking Ontario we do virtually nothing. Two cultures living side by side, and,unfortunately, not always easily…

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  3. 🙂
    We do it over here too 🙂
    St.John is celebrated all around the country tonight but more strongly so in the North of Portugal (Oporto) while St.Anthony is the Lisbon saint (June 13) and we also have bonfires and parties for St.Peter (June the 29th) 🙂 Parties all over the place throughout the whole month 😉
    (and I met my husband 40 years ago – yes I was a child 😉 – jumping over St.Peter’s bonfires … and can you guess his name ? 😉 )
    Turtle Hugs

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    • I suppose The Spanish and the Portugese are fairly similar in their love for Saints and celebrations 🙂 Have not had the pleasure of partying with the Portugese, but if they are anything like the Spanish – then its fun fun fun! Hubby’s name is Peter? You jumped over his bonfire? Guess you got burned good as you are still together 🙂
      Still-Smelling-Of-Bonfire-Hugs

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  4. first time i am reading and hearing of such a celebration, i knew about mid summer eve and its madness but never like this with witch dolls and bonfires. lovely read and as usual you get the information and a nice story to me with such grace and beauty.

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  5. Tilbaketråkk: Picks Of The Week #10 – The Stationery Geekette

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