Today is a special day in Norway and in Scandinavia. Although two days ago was the official start of summer/longest day of the year, today is the celebration. Quoting from today’s The Norway Post:
In Norway the evening of June 23rd is celebrated as Midsummernight Eve … Huge bonfires are burned as part of the celebrations … the festival has been named after St. John the Baptist, as the 24th is his birthday according to the Festival Calendar of the pre-reformation Church. As with so many of the church festivals, it was introduced in order to replace an old pre-Christian festival on that same date, thought to be the Summer Solstice, or the longest day of the year. In Norway, the evening is celebrated with partying, good food, music and dancing, and the burning of huge bonfires … However, the number of people who actually celebrate Midsummer in the traditional way is on its way down, according to fresh statistics.
In the years I’ve lived here we’ve seen preparations for bonfires when we’ve been out and about, but there hasn’t been anything close to where we live. We haven’t taken part in the partying that surrounds them, nor seen very much smoke letting us know there were fires in the area.
This weekend my husband and I were talking about Midsummer celebrations, and I thought I’d share a few of his memories as a young boy growing up in the 1950’s here in Norway.
Norway was very poor then; the long blackness of the war, the aftermath, and the dark winters made the coming summers, with the prospect of light and happiness, something to anticipate eagerly.
Jan grew up in an area at the base of Ulriken. It was a small community of homes that had been built after the war. He remembers strong connections with the other boys in the area. They didn’t have toys and trinkets; they would take whatever they could get their hands on and create something with it. He remembers specifically an old children’s stroller that they made into a makeshift wagon to drag behind their bikes. And in that wagon went every scrap of wood, timber, and other burnable items that they could find in their explorations of the steep sides of Ulriken, the many construction sites with post-war building, and items their fathers brought home for them … and over weeks they built up a pile for the Midsummernight celebration. They’d use nails and wood to hammer it together; the resulting shape was a solid, teepee-like pyramid that would safely burn all night.
Young adults would set up a stage a short distance away. And in the evening of June 23rd, everyone would congregate for music, dancing, shared food, drink, laughter, the bonfire, and a long night of celebrating life. Jan remembers the older adults coming for a short time, but it was mainly the young adults, youth, and children who joined in the fun.
There were no televisions, few radios (and only one station), no entertainment other than what they could create. This celebration was something they all looked forward to!
Tonight from our vantage point up above the fjord, I hope to see the smoke from a bonfire or two; if so, I’m sure images will find their way to my blog! 🙂 But in the meantime, I thought I’d end this with photos of the setting sun’s glow over Fanafjellet, just before midnight on the longest day of the year here in the Bergen area. I think the sun was being a little mischieveous and decided to have its *own* bonfire celebration!