When it comes to marking festivities and holidays, Danes exactly know how to do it the fun way.
This Friday, the whole country will be celebrating Sankt Hans Aften (Saint John’s Eve), the night before the birthday of John the Baptist. Celebrated on June 23 every year, the event closely coincides with Midsummer – the June solstice.
Throughout history, the summer solstice has carried different meanings. It is believed that on this day the Vikings visited water wells and lit bonfires to ward off evil spirits. And in medieval times, curative herbs were gathered on this day for the rest of the year.
Today, however, the occasion is primarily celebrated for getting together and having lots of fun, and carries little or no religious significance.
In compliance with the Viking tradition, large bonfires are lit across the country at dusk as people pop open their beer cans and toast everyone with a hearty “skål”.
Often a straw witch is affixed to the top of the fire, as legend says it is the night when the witches gather at Brocken – the highest peak of the Harz Mountains in Germany. The witch is therefore set on fire to help it fly to Brocken. A similar ritual is carried out in Sweden on the night of Walpurgis.
In the past, people sang church hymns, but since 1885, Holger Drachmann’s ‘Vi Elsker Vort Land’ (we love our country) has become the anthem of the holiday.
Where to go for celebration?
This year, Sankt Hans Aften fortunately falls on a Friday, which gives everyone the opportunity to go out and have fun with friends and family without having to worry about going to work the next day.
Copenhagen offers a lot of activities for people to celebrate the occasion. Here’s a list of places where one can go for endless merriment.
June 23, 16:30-23:00; Kulturhuset, Islands Brygge 18, Cph S; free adm; bryggens.dk
Come and join the Sankt Hans Aften party with your family and friends at Islands Brygge. Enjoy the musical concerts, watch a fabulous magic show, listen to speeches and witness the huge floating bonfire. A scrumptious barbecue buffet is also available at Bryggen Spisehus for 180kr per person.
June 23, 18:00 onwards; Kvæsthusbroen, Cph K; free adm
Spend your evening at the lovey harbour, listen to music and watch the bonfire at Ofelia Plads. Søs Fenger Quartet will be performing at the end of the event. The party is meant for both adults and children, and food and drinks are available for purchase.
Celebrate with the PM
June 23, 18:00-22:00; Marienborg, Nybrovej 410, Kongens Lyngby; free adm; no parking available
Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen invites everyone to celebrate Sankt Hans Aften in the garden at Marienborg. There will be music, speeches, a bonfire and activities for kids. You can bring your own food and drinks.
Bonfire in Blågårdsplads
June 23, 16:00 onwards, Blågårds Plads, Cph N; free adm
At Blågårds Plads, there are lots of activities for the whole family. Enjoy the bonfire, listen to bonfire speeches and dance at the end of the event to the tunes of DJ Rasmoney.
Bonfire in the garden
June 23, 18:30-22:00; Cph Garden, Hammelstrupvej 98, Cph SV; free adm
A large bonfire in Cph Garden awaits you on Friday evening. There will be songs and bonfire speeches. You can buy food and drink on site and may also bring your own food if you like.
Floating bonfire and concerts in Nordhavn
June 23, 16:00; Sundkaj, North Harbour, Cph Nordhavn; free adm
Join the celebrations this year at Nordhavn with a floating bonfire, magic show, awesome music and a variety of food and drinks available for purchase at food stalls. Rasmus Tantholdt from TV2 will be delivering the bonfire speech.
June 23, 17:00-20:00 for kids, 19: 30-23:00 for adults; Frederiksberg Park; free adm
Frederiksberg Garden has a fabulous program ready for children and adults. There will be plenty of entertainment for the little ones at the playground, while adults will be able to enjoy lots of music and buy drinks.
Celebrations at Tivoli
June 23, 19:30-23:00; Tivoli, Vesterbrogade 3, Cph V; regular adm fee
Want to make this year’s celebration memorable? Then look no further than Tivoli. The evening will begin with a concert, followed by a ballet performance at the Pantomineteatret. There will also be fireworks after the bonfire. You can bring your own food to the venue.
LGBT Midsummer party at Amager Beach
June 23, 18:00-22:00; Amager Beach, Helgoland, Amager Strandvej, Cph S; free adm
LGBT Denmark is also celebrating its 69th birthday as well as Sankt Hans Aften. The event begins with a big softball contest and everyone is welcome to participate. There are other games for the amusement of the visitors as well. Drinks will be sold on site.
Bonfire and BBQ at Docken
June 23, 18:00-23:00, Docken, Færgehavnsvej 35, Cph Ø; free adm; docken.dk
See the beautiful sunset next to the seashore and celebrate a lovely evening at Docken. A special buffet dinner comprising delicious grilled meat, salads and homemade bread is available for 235kr for adults and 95kr for kids under 12. You can also enjoy drinks on the terrace while the DJs entertain everyone with some great music. Book a table beforehand by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, mobile number and the number of guests.
Party at Bakken
June 23, 21:00, Kildesøen, Bakken, Dyrehavsbakken, Dyrehavevej 62, Klampenborg; free adm; bakken.dk
Experience the fantastic atmosphere of Midsummer at Bakken. The bonfire will be lit in the middle of the lake against the beautiful, green backdrop of the deer park. There will be music, speeches and spectacular fireworks. Though Bakken is not quite in the city, it’s definitely worth the journey.