A popular national tradition which can be traced back to paganism and has a bloodier history than many realize, today’s Sankt Hans Aften (St. John's Eve) takes its name from John the Baptist, who according to Christian tradition was born six months before Jesus.
In Denmark, the celebration usually includes a speech by a prominent local figure, the lighting of the bonfire and an atmospheric rendition in chorus of the song Midsommervisen.
Sankt Hans bonfires are usually quite easy to find on June 23rd, regardless of whether you may find yourself in a small town or a city.
Here is a – by no means exhaustive – list of Sankt Hans Aften events in Denmark’s three largest cities, plus Skagen.
Tivoli – The capital’s iconic amusement park and gardens will have a bonfire by the lake.
Frederiksberg Gardens – Take in the Sankt Hans Bonfire on palace lawns.
Islands Brygge – A floating bonfire and live music are part of the event by Copenhagen Harbour.
Refshaleøen – You’ll also be by the harbour at Refshaleøen, where the new street food market Reffen is putting on its first Sankt Hans night.
Bakken – The historic fairground kicks things off with a kids’ event at 2pm.
University Park – The rolling slopes and serene lakes of the Aarhus University campus make a great backdrop for the bonfire and chorus.
Godsbanen – The urban cultural centre Institut for X has a bar, live music, an after party and free entry.
Langenæs Church – A longstanding and family-friendly event at the Langenæs church south of the city centre.
Tivoli Friheden – Aarhus’ fairground near the Marselis forest is offering up live music and a speech by the city’s lord mayor Jacob Bundsgaard.
Engen – Natural soundings and a rather sizeable bonfire are two reasons to follow the decades-long Odense tradition of attending Sankt Hans at Engen in the Fruens Bøge forest.
At the northern tip of Denmark, you can expect romantic ambient lighting that will last longer than anywhere else in the country, and of course the traditional song and bonfire attended by thousands.