Sankthans

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Assuming you aren’t currently roasting in Australia (hang in there folks, we’re thinking of you!), if you’re feeling the sting of winter’s chill, these photos might help you warm up a little. 

Alesund, Norway is the site of the world’s biggest bonfire - created by stacking wood pallets into a 40 metre (131 ft) tower on an artificial island. The towering inferno is created for “Sankthans, or ‘Midsummer’, an annual festival celebrated on the 24th of June (around summer solstice) in commemoration of John the Baptist’s birth. The day is celebrated in Scandinavian countries and other parts of Europe, and the bonfire, known as Slinningsbålet, is a traditional part of the festivities, but things are taken to an awesome extreme in Alesund. 

"In 2010, a record was set for the tallest bonfire at 40.45 meters (132.71 ft). The previous record was 37.84 meters (124.14 ft) set in 1993. The base of the structure is approximately 20 meters wide (65.6 ft). About 30-40 people partake in the build, and to light the structure someone must climb to the top to ignite it. If the fire doesn’t burn from top to bottom things could end badly."

Click here for video footage of this incredible event.

Visit Twisted Sifter for complete photo credits and to view more photos of the awesome Alesund bonfire.

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Witch burning for Sankt Hans - Denmark - 2013

In Denmark, the solstitial celebration is called sankthans orsankthansaften (“St. John’s Eve”). It was an official holiday until 1770, and in accordance with the Danish tradition of celebrating a holiday on the evening before the actual day, it takes place on the evening of 23 June. It is the day where the medieval wise men and women (the doctors of that time) would gather special herbs that they needed for the rest of the year to cure people.

It has been celebrated since the times of the Vikings by visiting healing water wells and making a large bonfire to ward away evil spirits. Today the water well tradition is gone. Bonfires on the beach, speeches, picnics and songs are traditional, although bonfires are built in many other places where beaches may not be close by (i.e. on the shores of lakes and other waterways, parks, etc.) In the 1920s a tradition of putting a witch made of straw and cloth (probably made by the elder women of the family) on the bonfire emerged as a remembrance of the church’s witch burnings from 1540 to 1693. This burning sends the “witch” away to Bloksbjerg, the Brocken mountain in the Harz region of Germany where the great witch gathering was thought to be held on this day. Some Danes regard the relatively new symbolic witch burning as inappropriate.[10][11]

In 1885 Holger Drachmann wrote a midsommervise (Midsummer hymn) called"Vi elsker vort land…"(“We Love Our Country”) with a melody composed by P.E. Lange-Müller that is sung at every bonfire on this evening.

Sankt hans is approaching!

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.

Read more.

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This is how we celebrate Sankthans…
40 metres of fire anyone?

Midsummer in Ålesund (click to view more)

So this was back in 2010 at an annual festival in Ålesund, Norway. The occasion is Sankthans or ‘Midsummer’ and partakes on June 24th in Scandinavian countries and other parts of Europe. In Ålesund, they call this 132.7 ft."bonfire" Slinningsbålet.

Here are some magnificent pictures about this spectacular event:
(click on the picture to see how it was built and burned!)

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