Why you shouldn’t mess with a witch

Living in Denmark is pretty much like riding a tsunami of traditions.  Just as you get your head around one tradition another one whacks you on the head.  It’s been a double whammy this week with Sankt Hans Aften and students running around in their ‘graduation caps’ .  Think white sailor caps with red or blue ribbons.  Check out my video below from today with some of the students doing a ‘driveby’ celebrating this afternoon (apologies for the slightly stalker type quality). 

Until now my pick of Danish Traditions had been Dancing Cow Day.  Its’ the day the cows are let out of their barns after 4 months winter ‘hibernation’ and are free once again to frolic in the grass.  The excitement of which makes them dance.  Hence the naming of ‘Dancing Cow Day’.  Pure brilliance.  Or as we would say in my country, Dancing Cow Day tickled my fancy.

However the latest Danish tradition I’ve been fast catching up on is burning witches.  Sankt Hans Aften. Of equal brilliance because they burn witches.  Witches.  Like the real deal.

If you’ve been following our blog and Facebook page you will already know that this day has been highly anticipated by BBB & I.  I admire the Danes.  Not only do they sing in public (everywhere), frolic naked (in a lot of places), but they also go to battle with witches.   

Sankt Hans Aften (St. John’s Eve) takes its name from John the Baptist, who according to Christian tradition was born six months before Jesus. With Christmas celebrated on December 24th in Denmark, that puts John’s birthday on June 24th. The tradition of celebrating the eve of his birthday with a bonfire dates back to the 1600s.

Although the holiday is nominally Christian, it is built upon pagan traditions. According to legend, the summer solstice is a night imbued with evil, a night in which witches make their way to the Brocken, the highest summit in the Herz mountains in northern Germany. In order to ward off those broomstick-riding witches and their evil troll accomplices, Danes light a bonfire to keep the spooky forces at bay.

And if that weren’t enough, the bonfires themselves are topped with a witch figure which is set ablaze on a night when Danes eat, drink and make merry in recognition of summer’s peak and the coming of longer nights.

For the full explanation with perhaps more accuracy than what I would otherwise give you head to: http://www.thelocal.dk/20150623/denmark-sankt-hans-aften

All of this very much makes it a day of celebration in Denmark with families and friends coming together for a BBQ or other meal before heading off to watch one of the local bonfires. 

The Dane has been telling me about this day for many years.  But until now we haven’t been in Denmark to actually experience it.  Last night was our first Sankt Hans Aften.  So after carefully hiding my broomstick in the attic we ventured out into the evening to first enjoy a BBQ with friends before heading to the big bonfire.

However the witches had other plans.

After a brilliant uncharacteristically warm Copenhagen day of 28c+ wth warm winds and blue skies all hell erupted in the skies at 8pm with the most wicked thunder and lightning storm.  So the only glimpse we had of the local bonfire was through a car window being pelted with rain with a groggy BBB in the backseat.  No singing.  No speeches.  No witches.  Just disappointment.

The electrical storm was intense and lasted for an hour before returning for another hour at 3am this morning.  And this my friends, is why you should never mess with a witch.  Their powers were clearly much stronger and scarier than any of the bonfires built and lit in Denmark last night hence creating the most wickedest display of light and noise.  BBB slept through it all.  I did not.  Barely coping with the pretty much 24 hour daylight/twilight that summer brings in Denmark I was now having to cope with blinding flashes lighting up our bedroom as well.  Can one possibly be tortutred by light in any more ways?

Understandably my disappointment is high.  It feels like I’ve just found out Santa Claus isn’t real.  Which of course is slightly different because Santa is real.

On the positive though we had a lovely meal with good friends with no less than 3 languages being spoken at the table. Danish, English and French.  But it does also mean I now have to wait 12 more months before I can burn some witches.  Until then BBB, my broomstick and I will keep working our magic in other ways in Copenhagen.

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