What is sankt hans? Well, it’s also known as sankthansaften or St. John’s Eve, but most Norwegians recognize it as the summer solstice! This article by the Norwegian Embassy in Washington, D.C. has more insights into how Norwegians celebrate the holiday:
St. Hansaften is the ultimate summer feast in Norway. On the evening of June 23, Norwegians light bonfires, pick flowers to put under their pillows, and celebrate summer and light.
The St. Hans celebrations have roots across northern Europe, and were also brought to Canada with the first French colonialists. In Canada, the celebration is called Saint-Jean-Baptist Day or Quebec National Holiday. The celebrations take on somewhat different forms in the different countries, but the origins are much the same. St. Hans is a Christian holiday to honor Saint John the Baptist (also called Saint Hans). The day of celebration was set to June 24 to outdo the pagan celebrations of midsummer or summer solstice. However, it is the celebration of summer, sun, and light that has survived in countries such as Norway. In Norway, celebrations take place the evening before June 24. Aften, as in St. Hansaften, means evening.