Monday, June 27, 2011

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Last week, in the June 23th evening, there was the celebration of the summer solstice. We decided to see this in the Tivoli park, were the festivities are performed on the large lake located in the middle of the park. Not the best choice in the world, as the location was very stuffed with people having exactly the same aim as us: observe and take photos of the festivity.

What is Midsummer? There is a scientific explanation for it: summer solstice, the day of the year when the Earth's semi-axis is most inclined towards the sun. Even if the above mentioned astronomical condition is a punctual time moment, the whole day around it is called as Midsummer. More interesting are the cultural/religious meaning of Midsummer. It is arguably a mixture of pagan and religious practices, celebrated between June 21-24 in different countries. It might be a ships ceremony on Danube like in Austria, a mock wedding in Brasil, bonfires in France of Denmark, specific dance and fairs as in Romania or various fertility rites in Russia or Finland. As the day coincides more or less with the nativity of Saint John or his various forms in different languages: Juan, Ioan, Ivan, Hans, Jovan, Jean or João, it was widely accepted in the Christian religion as well, although most of the practices are having their roots from pre-Christian times.

In Denmark, the tradition of Sankt Hans aften ("St. John's Eve") goes back from the old Viking times, when the people were visiting healing water wells or were making bonfires to burn the witches who was personifying all the evil creatures and spirits. Today only the bonfire part is cerebrated, sometimes textile version of the witches is thrown into fire. This rite is having the origin in the old times of Christianity when the women suspected to do magic stuff were burnt. The burning sends the witch to the place were the tradition says thet are gathering: Bloksbjerg (the Brocken mountain in Germany). A song written especially for this ceremony by Holger Drachmann in 1855 is sung every year : "Vi elsker vort land..." ("We Love Our Country").

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