The Sankt Hans Eve Festival
On the eve of the 23rd of June, I headed to Amager Strand Station. People were arriving and as the night went by, we headed towards the the sandy beach where huge branches had been piled up in readiness for the bonfire.
A traditional old figure resembling a witch was up on a stake and swaying with the breeze, while turning round and round as if to cast her last magic spell. There was also a little witch who had been tied in the branches of the bonfire. At precisely 21:00 hours the fire was lit and amidst people clapping and chanting hymns the little witch burned...poor little soul... as the old witch watched...ouch! Anyhow, I hope we drove away the dark forces to where they belong.
This event is meant to scare the witches and the evil spirits away, not to burn them. The bonfires are a remembrance of the burning of witches that was practised 600 years ago when churches would burn old women, who they thought were evil or brought bad luck to the community.
Many people, and also organisations, celebrate midsummer every 23rd of June, which is the eve of the Saint Hans day. In the programme of these celebrations, people can include speeches, fire works and different entertainment, but a big fire with a figure of an old witch on a stake is always a part of the Sankt Hans celebration. As the bondfire burns people chant songs especially by Holger Drachmann like, “The light turns and it now goes to darker times”.
The unlit bonfire and the old witch ont the stake