St. Hans Festival

St. Hans Festival

June 24
Like other Midsummer Day celebrations, the St. Hans (St. John) Festival in Norway combines both pagan and Christian customs. This festival was originally held in honor of the sun god, for the ancients believed that the sun's change of course at the Summer Solstice was an important event. The gates of the upper and lower worlds stood wide open at this time, and supernatural beings such as trolls and goblins roamed the earth.
After Christianity was introduced, the Norwegian midsummer festival was linked to the birth of John the Baptist ( see St. John's Day), and it became known as Sankt Hans Dag, or St. John's Day . But some of the ancient customs and superstitions surrounding Midsummer Day have persisted. Only a century ago it was still common for Norwegians to hide their pokers and to carve a cross on their broomsticks as a way of warding off witches who might otherwise use these household items for transportation. The present-day custom of decorating with birch boughs also has its roots in ancient times, when the foliage was considered a symbol of the life force that awakens in Nature in the spring and early summer.
The festival of St. Hans is still celebrated in Norway much as it has been for hundreds of years. On Jonsok, or St. John's Eve, Norwegians who live near the fjords head out in their boats, which are decorated with green boughs and flowers, to get the best possible view of the St. John's bonfires on the mountains.
CONTACTS:
Innovation Norway-Tourism
655 Third Ave., Ste. 1810
New York, NY 10017
212-885-9700; fax: 212-885-9710
www.innovasjonnorge.no
SOURCES:
FestWestEur-1958, p. 153
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 397