Monday, July 6, 2009

Midsummer night surprise- Sankt Hans Aften

Summer in Denmark is full of surprises. It combines all the seasons in one. The day may begin at 3:00 in the morning when the sun rises. There may be an early morning rain, or a little fog. Then comes the sun and birds singing all over the meadow behind our house. We could have a strong cool breeze next or dark clouds dumping rain all over Odense. (This bridge is called the Lillebaelt Bridge on the road to Fredericia).
The sun and shadows show off the prettiest buildings with all their details and fancy designs. This beautiful building can be lost across from the train station but it shines in the morning light.

The Odense River welcomes the sun with lazy river boats right in the middle of town.
Last week we were getting ready to shop and cook on our Monday Preparation Day...for our Tuesday night Family Home Evening. I was making the dough for Brigham Young's favorite dessert - breakfast donuts.
We were studying about Brigham Young that week. Elder Wilberg was talking to our friend and landlord Detlef Riedel outside and discovered that Tuesday would not be an ordinary day at the center. It was a traditional Holiday that began around 965 AD . On June 23 we celebrate "Sankt Hans aften" or the evening before Saint John the Baptist Day. We decided that we did not want to miss the celebration so we moved our Family Home Evening to our house.

We invited anyone who wanted to come, prepared a Brigham Young Meal (I am sure that John the Baptist will not mind), and served Jello (a salad that was invented during the life time of Brigham Young. I think that is why we have such a connection to Jello salads of every color and kind. (Thank you Benny Madsen, for bringing us this gift from Utah). I made Brigham Young Donuts, a dessert that he liked to eat for breakfast often served with a roasted pigeon or two. We did not want to roast any pigeons, so we served oven roasted chicken.

The sister missionaries, Sister Brown and Sister Hatten came to dinner along with Mattias, Dan, and Ulrika. We got acquainted with Brigham Young, thanks to Elder Wilberg, and then began to celebrate a "John the Baptist Evening"...the longest day of the year.. a midsummer's night celebration.

To celebrate this long day, people all over Europe, light huge bonfires. In Denmark they like to put a "scare a crow" like witch in the middle of the flames hoping that all evil spirits will float away to a witches mountain in Germany. Detlef Riedel is from East Germany. I asked him if he minded that the Danes were sending their evil spirits to his homeland. He assured me that it was not a problem. I wonder what John the Baptist would think about this little tradition. Carl, and brother Reidel tore down an old lamb shed in order to build a good fire.

The mission president told the sisters and elders that they could stay out a little later on this night to enjoy the Danish custom.

We gathered around the fire to relax, roast marshmallows, and enjoy the long summer's night. Since there were no evil spirits among us, we did not need an old witch to roast.

Steffen and Birte Vestergaard, Detlef and Yvonne Riedel, and all of our company gathered around the fire to sing.
There is a special patriotic song that is sung at this event called "Vi Elsker
Vort Land" (vee elske vort lan)- "We Love Our Land." This is the national song of Denmark. It is easy to love this land, especially on such a beautiful sunny night.
In the last few years, teens and children use the bonfire to celebrate their last days of school. They toss their old notes and school papers into the big fire.. a good way to begin the summer vacation.
Detlef Riedel introduced a new experience for this event. He had some lanterns that he found in Germany. They became "hot air balloons" as
he lit the little disc under the lantern.

They floated high into the night sky. What a memorable night.
I've been thinking about John the Baptist since then. I wondered why they chose the lightest day of the year to celebrate his day.
Maybe someone will find the little messages that we wrote on the lanterns.. "Christ is the Savior of the world," "He loves you, seek Him,"
"Learn about him on"

John the Baptist knows a lot about light. He prepared the way for Jesus Christ, the light of the world.
In John 1: 6-9 (JST of Bible) it is written..
"There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came into the world for a witness.. to bear witness of the light, to bear record of the gospel through the Son, unto all,
That through him-- men might believe. He was not that light, but came to bear witness of that light.. Which was the true light which lighteth every man who cometh into the world.. Even the son of God."
The sun finally went down in Odense about 11:00. I think that John the
Baptist would be proud of our cozy bonfire. I treasure the light. I guess that this is why we are here. To help shine a little light on a very dark world... To help anyone, who is willing to look, see- that Jesus Christ, himself is the light. Good night, Odense. Thank you for the long summer night.


  1. how fun! when i visited nancy in france, the days were very long and it was amazing how great the light was! i felt like i never got tired!

    your celebration sounds perfect! and i love all your pictures.

    did you take 'scott and kathy' pictures? i'd love to see them. i bet you had fun!

  2. What a fun series of pictures. That bonfire idea appeals to me. There are a lot of things around here that could use some cleaning up like your sheep shed. Love the pictures.