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WHAT IS SANKTHANS AND WHY DO WE CELEBRATE IT?

Mari-Anne Moore  | Published on 5/31/2019

SANKTHANS


As the day was approaching, and I thought about how we celebrated St. Hans Aften in Norway with bonfires, hot dogs, ice cream and often adult beverages, I began to wonder about the wisdom of celebrating the day. So, I did what any person in this day and age would do:   I googled it.


Sankthans, or the official abbreviation St. Hans, or Jonsok is June 24th, but Norwegians are more fond of Eve’s, (note Christmas Eve equals Christmas to Norwegians), so it is celebrated on June 23rd. The origin of St. Hans is from pagan days, when summer solstice was celebrated.  When Norway was christened the Church knew it was easier to give any holiday a religious reason than to try to do away with it. So they named it Jonsok for Johannes døperen, John the Baptist, in his memory.  Hans is also short for Johannes, and ergo St. Hans. This day was an official holiday until 1770.


I have heard all kinds of different stories about the bonfire and witches and so on. I did not remember this from my childhood. What I did remember was an old chair with a stuffed dummy at the top. Again, thanks to Google I got this cleared up. Norwegians burn the chair and dummy symbolizing the old that they want to rid themselves of (we do not think this this the dummy represent people).  In Sweden the bonfires were illegal after Christianity and we assume this is where the maypole comes from. It is the crazy Danes who burn witches warding off evil spirits. I suppose the version you choose will show were your loyalties lie……


As for why we, The Norwegian Society of Texas, celebrate this day:  Our founding fathers of the NST in their wisdom decided way back in 1975 that we needed to celebrate certain Norwegian holidays:  Syttende Mai, Sankthans aften, Leif Eiriksson Day (only in America) and Jul. This they put down in the bylaws and as good law-abiding Norwegians we still celebrated this day with as much authenticity as we can muster.

Mari-Anne Moore

President, Viking Chapter of Norwegian Society of Texas