Sankt Hans Aften is Danish for Saint John’s Eve, the evening before the Feast Day of Saint John the Baptist. This is the eve of 23 June, which Danes celebrate with bonfires, usually at the sea or a lake. There are some other traditions as well, which I will explain in this post.

In 2015 Lars and I decided to celebrate Sankt Hans Aften in the north of Jutland, near a town called Grenen. This is the place of one of the biggest and most beautiful summer solstice celebrations in Denmark. After having traveled all over Denmark for 5 years it was time to check it out.

Although this is one of the most popular destinations in Denmark to celebrate Sankt Hans Aften, we still found a parking place nearby.

On top of the pile of wood, you can see a doll resembling a witch. According to Wikipedia,

The origin of this custom is a Danish folk belief that Saint John’s Eve is also the night of a witches’ meeting on the Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz Mountains in central Germany. (…)

Traditionally, the bonfires were lit to fend off witches, but today – when the witch effigy catches fire – she is said to be “flying away to Brocken”, which can be interpreted as helping the witch on her way. 

Celebrations usually start around dusk. First, there are speeches and people sing Midsommervisen (by Holger Drachmann).

This is the classic version of the song, composed in 1885. There is also a modern one, which I do not recommend listening to.

And then it’s time to light the bonfire!

During Sankt Hans Aften, people usually drink beer and eat hotdogs. This is not only a celebration of the birth of Saint John the Baptist (and not his death, by the way). The Danes also celebrate the beginning of summer and the summer holidays.

It’s our goal to go back to Denmark this year and if possible, participate in some Sankt Hans Aften celebration(s). Or maybe we will see how the Spanish celebrate this special day. Anyway, have a look at this!


  1. Just tell those Danes to stop killing those whales! That is utterly barbaric and primitive. Some customs were MEANT TO die out. — YUR


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