A Scandinavian Summer Tradition: Sankt Hans Aften

If walking around Copenhagen Sunday night, you may notice “witches” raised atop bonfires across town, ready to be set on fire. Islands Brygge, Amager Strand, Nyhavn, and Christianshavn are just a few places that come to mind – and practically every canal and water view in Copenhagen. Each location will crowd with Copenhageners, anxious to watch the annual Sankt Hans Aften celebration.

Most of the celebrations are free, and some offer a grill buffet at a price. Besides for the buzz of the spectators, you can expect traditional songs, reuniting friends and families, political speeches and possible celebrity sightings, barbecues, music, and a late night fire. All of this, to mark the last long day of extended daylight in the Scandinavian summer. That is, from Sunday and on, the sun will begin to set earlier and earlier, and daylight will hold off until later and later in the morning. (Summer students – the days become shorter with each day that passes, and by November, the “hygge” is on. Ask any DIS fall alumni what this entails!)

So make sure to scope out your spot for this Sunday. A little research will tell you that most fires begin at around 21.00 – 22.00, with music just beforehand. Clear your plans and join in on this fun Scandinavian tradition!

If you’re looking for all possible places to spend your Sankt Hans Aften, here are two Danish words that will be key in your research:

Bål = “fire”

Gratis = “free”

Specific times and locations are posted here!

Enjoy! Make sure to share your night and tag your Instagram photos with #DISabroad, or upload to the Summer 2013 Flickr Group.

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