Summer Solstice in Norway

Since this blog, my Terella, is about Norway and its significant four seasons, what is more natural than mentioning the Summer Solstice? The night before the 21st of June is the shortest as the sun rises at 3:49AM and sets at 10:46PM. A dramatic difference from the 21st of December when the sun rise at 9:18AM and sets 14:32PM. Please read my post about Winter Solstice.

Up north, above the polar circle the sun never sets or rises at this time – at all. Norway is the land of the midnight sun, you know! In the Nordic countries we have been celebrating the midsummer night for thousands of years, this “fire wheel” was an important, mysteries, magic and holy part of nature. In December, they held wild parties with lots of food and beer to boost the people’s strength and to forget and survive the darkness. In June, they held even wilder parties to celebrate and praise the sun shining almost 24/7.

Since it is June now, let me show you a couple of pictures from out in our garden last night at 11:59PM and even then, the sky is quite bright.

Taken with my mobile phone from my garden last night.

St. Hans – St. John’s Eve:
A blend of hedonistic sun worship, biblical John the Baptist, clever church politics, holy fire and witches pave the way of history that leads to today’s St. Hans celebration:
In Norway, Hans is short for Johannes, or John. The St. Hans celebration (at 24th of June) is for his birthday. Historians say that he actually was not born that day, but the religious leaders in the 400 centuries needed to replace the wild celebrations of hedonists. That’s the same as the way the church set up Jesus birthday to the 24th of December. The old, pagan tradition of gathering around bonfires on this night is now the only mark of this day. For a while, until 1770, it was a religious holiday, but today it’s all about the bonfires and summer celebration.

Planks, rotten wood, leaves etc are gathered and set on fire. In addition there are often competitions for the children, lotteries and barbequing. There are many superstitions connected with the eve of St. John. For instance, the bonfire was believed to give protection from evil spirits and to keep witches away. Another superstition was that herbs and plants had magic powers on this night. Also, if a girl on this day picked 7 different kinds of flowers and put them under her pillow, she would dream about her future husband that night.

This summer solstice compared to the winter solstice in December really demonstrates the spectre of season differences in Norway. From the cold, dark and snowy mid winter (average temperature around -5C or 23F) to the warm mid summer (average temperature 18C or 65F). To give you an example:

January 2006 – June 2006
Taken with my mobile phone from my second floor window.

Happy St. Hans, St. John’s Eve or Mid Summer everyone!

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  1. Beautiful pictures Renny. I think I saw some of the people here in Osterøy having that kind of feast and I wanted to join but too bad I dont know anyone in the area. Now is the time that the sun turns back and it’s getting darker as days gone by.

  2. Hello Renny, Happy St Hans day to you too! In Finland it’s called Juhannus, after the same ‘Hans’, Johannes (or John the Baptist in English). What ‘magic’ rituals go on in Norway this sacred night?

    I miss the beautiful midsummer light of a Nordic summer..

  3. I worded my answer badly, I meant what *other* truly Norwegian magical traditions you have? I’m just curoius, because the ones you listed are surprisingly similar, if not even identical to the ones in Sweden and Finland.

  4. Hi Renny

    Thanks for flying by my blog..appreciate it very much

    The pictures are very nice and interesting..thank you for sharing your stories and pictures..

    I’ll come visit again..Happy Weekend to you

  5. Hi, Renny, Thanks for commenting on my humble blog. It’s always nice to have new visitors, and especially from as far away as Norway. June 21st is the longest day of the year here in the US, while Dec. 21st is the shortest day. We don’t celebrate any particular rituals on the solstices, but it’s interesting to read about your traditions. :-)

    Welcome, and please visit again soon, as I will here to your blog. :-)



  6. Hello Renny, thanks for visiting my blog today and happy St. Han’s Day to you too.

    Norway is such a beautiful country, and reading through your blog I realise I could live there quite comfortably. I love the temperatures! I’m not one for long hot summer days, I prefer the cool summers and even cooler winters.

    We spoke of visiting Norway this, or next year. It’s somewhere we’ve always wanted to go, but just haven’t got around to doing it yet.


  7. A midsummer nights dream, yeah its too late that the sun is still there… good well.. lets celebrate it! St john was also celebrated in manila. The city of san juan parade it with water from fire brigade. Getting wet all the people when you passed by the city town… enjoy the celebration!

  8. The day wasn’t quite so long in Ottawa. Sunrise 05:14, sunset 20:54

    Hmmm … never heard of St. Hans’ day.

    Do you get to see the Aurora Borealis from where you live? I saw it once, down were I live, in 1989 or 1990. It was a fantastic show with brilliant and vibrant colours (thanks to a major solar storm a few days earlier).

    Cool last name! Maybe it is only cool to me because I am not Norwegian and, like your namesake, would love to visit the South Pole.

  9. How wonderful Renny. I love knowing this kind of stuff. We were out walking at 9:15 watching our sun go down and of course it was still totally light out. It becomes a lot darker here about 10 to 1030. But I remember Paris not being dark basically until 11pm. That was so cool to me.

  10. Forgot to mention, in the province of Quebec, we celebrate Saint Jean Baptiste day every June 24th. Although, Quebec calls it Fete Nationale (National Day) – since Quebec fancies itself a soveeign nation under Canada.

  11. At all: I’m overwhelmed about your visit. My goal is to share some from the Nordic and to learn from you’re comments. Now I’ve really got it

    @Charles: Hope you get the chance next year! It’s a long time before Christmas, so enjoy the light nights as we have them!

    @Miriam: Yes we have a lot in common as Nordic neighbours (Norway, Sweden and Norway) you know and a lot of similar traditions and magical traditions. You find a lot of them in my blog during the year, so feel free to explore and thank you so much for sharing and stopping by!

    @SassyLady: Thanks for you’re compliments and welcome back any time. Happy weekend to you too!

    @Diane: Thanks for you’re visit and great to see the similarity even is we live long apart. But then again it shows how small the world is after all:-) Welcome back!

    @Mandy: I’m glad you liked it and please tell me when you decide to visit as I gladly guide you and give you tips of what to explore and experience!

    @NeilDC: Thanks for sharing from Manila, that’s what all this about you know. Have a great end to your week too!

    @Richard: Thanks for visiting and sharing from Ottawa. Yes I saw Aurora Borealis in 1990 – spectacular view. My last name is very common in Norway and the most famous is the pole traveller, Roald Amundsen (no family!). He was at the south pole first and you are welcome in his foot steps:-)
    And see, St. Jean is St. Han’s in Norway – a small world after all!

    @ExpatTraveler: I’m just glad to give you more info about the Nordic as I love to learn by visiting you’re blog and recomand others to do the same, really! You’re latitude is a bit lower than in Norway you know. But of course, even in Paris you can have some of the romantic, late sun set:-)

  12. Yes, I am looking forward to it! I am itching myself to travel again to Oslo today due to the gay parade but too bad I have things to do!

  13. wow, very informative post!

    i remembered one time when i was in sydney during summer. ive been riding my bike by the country side. this was after office hours. i totally lost track of time. since i came from the tropics, where the sun rises and sets at “normal” times, i didnt notice that it was already 9pm; though the sun is still up. no wonder i was so hungry that i have to rush back to the hotel for my dinner.

  14. Norway is a beautiful country, I plan to visit it one day.

    The same experience of Owen happened to me in Singapore. :)

  15. happy st. hans day renny! im sure glad summer’s there already. i love it. told chas, that if it permits, i would love to come visit. have friends too there.

    re: summer solstice – lovely! it’s eclipse but no eclipse at all. hahahaha

  16. nice pics Renny!but i love the upper pics,ur pic and ur laptop,cool ;)

    good grief!thats amazing!you have a long daytime out there!

    enjoy mid summer and happy weekend,Renny!

  17. was midsummer last friday?

    I met a family from Sweden on a holiday here and they were talking about the midsummer festival. They were asking me where they can celebrate it here. I had no idea.

    The pictures are great!I wonder how it is to live there. Right now, here in Istanbul,it still looks like mid afternoon at 9pm and I’m not used to it!

  18. well, this answers the question i just posted for you on my blog in the comments section. i was asking if St. Hans Day had anything to do with the summer solstice. there was a big music celebration here in philly today. it is to go until 6am tomorrow morning to celebrate the solstice. i love the summer in the city. so much is going on.

  19. great pictures. it’s just like 6:00 in the evening here in the philippines. hehe.

    you should have told us about the superstition before St. Hans’ Day so i could have picked flowers and placed it under my pillow. hahaha. just kidding. actually, was about to tell you also that i have researched on St. Hans Day. it’s called St. John the Baptist’s Day here.

    happy St. Hans’ Day renny! :)

  20. I love the pictures taken in your back yard at night. I had forgotten just what the Norwegian sky is like during the summer nights!

  21. @OvenFW: Thanks for sharing your experience and then you know how it feels. Its har to get to sleep in the summer time, but then again we can always sleep all winter time:-)

    @Jairam: Thank you and your welcome any time!

    @Yuri: Thanks and by all means: you are welcome any time too. Give me a hint in advance so we can meet Chas together!

    @ghee: Thanks for your nice compliments. Happy weekend to you and your family too!

    @Duke: Mid Summer was the 21st but we Celebrate it the St. Hans’ Eve the 23rd. It’s great to live here – come and see for yourself:-)

    @April: Interesting way to celebrate as I love conserts – hope it was good. Have a great weekend April:-)

    @Tin-Tin: Sorry i was late to tell you, but remember next year then! Great research, your so right!

    @Barbara: Thanks and glad I was able to remind you of the Norwegian Midnight Sky:-) Happy weekend to you and your family!

  22. Renny – My brother spent about 14 months in Tromso. I remember reading one of his letters. This phrase caught my attention:

    “We are excited, the sun is coming up next month!”

  23. Seems like the best time to visit Norway is during the solstice, both those dates are polar opposites but gives you a wonderful appreciation of the natural beauty of Norway under different light.

  24. Thanks for visiting my universe! I must make it a point to celebrate one of my birthdays in Norway!

  25. Hi Renny, thanks for sharing this info.

    Your St. Hans Day is same in Manila as St. John but it’s quite opposite on the tradition whereas we were throwing water on that day and your tradition were setting up a fire.

    Anyway, have fun and happy St. Han’s Day to you and your family.

  26. ok, hellp there!! I saw your comment on signgurls blog, and just had to check ya out! love your pics!! I’ll be back too! Don’t get too excited k? hahahhheheheehhohhohohoh!! Have a nice weekend!

  27. Amazing Renny. I would love to see the sun for such a long day but would not like December in Norway. In New York we have a little of both. June 21st is the best day for me. I love the promise of summer sunshine! Thank you for your comments and your photos.

  28. Thanks for sharing all this wonderful info and also for commenting on my blog. My husband’s family is Norwegian (surname = Risdahl).

  29. @TravelItaly: Tromsø is great. Hope you’ve seen some of my post from my last visit, like: http://rennybasblog.blogspot.com/2006/04/gateway-to-arctic.html

    @Nibaq: You might have a good point there, but you are welcome any time:-)

    @Missy: I’ll throw you a party next year!

    @Mmy-lei: Your welcome and thanks for sharing yours!

    @wmy: Thanks – I won’t – have a great week ahead:-)

    @Alida: I would say summer is the top of the cream too, but the rest of the cake is not bad either:-)

    @MrsAiAiHellTune: You’re welcome. Grate to have Norwegian native visitors on my blog. Give my regards to all the Risdahl’s and welcome back!

  30. Hi, Renny! Here in Texas we barely notice that it’s the longest day of the year, since the nights are still almost 8 hours, but it’s nice to know that the Solstice is celebrated where it really makes a difference …

  31. Hey Renny=)
    My family and I didn’t really celebrate St.Hans this year. Normally we are in the summerhouse, but we coudn’t be there this year cause that we were waiting for a visitor who was comming.
    But I did see the people who were biking from Trondheim – Oslo at St.Hans Aften though.

    That thing about the girl who could pick 7 differnt kind of flowers and put them under her pillow was pretty cool! maybe I should try that next time ;)

    Anyways, great pictures! :D
    Little too late, but happy St.Hans to u!! (it was yesterday, right? hihih)

  32. Renny, I’m thrilled you stopped by to see “The Gods Are Bored!” I’m bookmarking your site because this first entry I’ve read is like opening a new package from a faraway land! Happy St. Hans! At the service I attended today in the pouring rain, we called it Alban Hefin. In any language, it just means sun power.

  33. Again, a clever and educational post. Thanks!

    Boy, I bet there are lots of people who suffer from light deficiency in the north during winter.

    Your photo of the lingering sun at nearly midnight looks a lot like sun setting on June 21 at about 8:59 here on the East Cost of America.

    Enjoy the summer, Renny! Have a beer on me, yes?

    Bud, your American friend

  34. Thanks for the visit and kind words. You have a pretty interesting blog as well. I heard that Norway is among the cleanest countries in the world. I’d sure love to visit there sometime in the future.

    My best regards to you and your family


  35. That is so cool that you celebrate this nice long day! I wish we did here in Ontario, Canada. Oh well, Canada Day is coming on July 1st! How the heck do you sleep? I know someone from Iceland who has to wear a sleeping mask!

  36. Renny, thank you for your input on my blog. I am going to pass you blog address to my aunt and uncle who live in Elnesvagen.

  37. @Mark: The significant four seasons is the great different you know:-)

    @Racky: Thanks – it was great!

    @AngelikaJane: Yes the tradition where thousands of bikers takes their 550Km trip is great. Remember to put the flowers under your pillow next year:-)

    @AnneJohnson: Thanks for book marking me and welcome back. Thanks for sharing your tradition too!

    @ExpatTraveler: Your welcome – glad to make you smiling you know :-)

    @Buddy: We don’t suffer during winter, we just sleep:-) Enjoy your summer too and let’s cheers (‘skål’ in Norwegian) each other!

    @jhay: yes its clean, the dirt is freezing in the winter time you know – just kidding! Please come and visit to see by yourself and tell me in advance so I can guide you. Have a great end to the week to you and your family:-)

    @MotherofInvention: You get used to from we are born and then again it is even easier to sleep in the winter time you know.

    @Gia-Gina: Great, hope your family in Elnesvågen ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elnesv%C3%A5gen ) likes my blog too!

    @scart: They might – I have not thought about it. But maybe I’ll check closer and make a post of what I find. So stay tuned!

  38. Hi, it’s my first time to be in your site and it impressed me how one learns a lot from ones culture just by being curious. You have enriched for a few my lazy mind, i was checking Shalimars post and was curious.
    In Florence, Italy St. Hans as you call it is our patron saint and we always celebrate it splendidly with fireworks ad all.

  39. Yes, I most definately miss the mid summer celebrations – from this city where people are to busy to realise what mid-summer is until it has passed them 2 weeks by.

    That said, I don’t miss the Norwegian winters, but currently having a drought and heat wave (and 15 degrees in my home town) I would love a short weekend break there.

  40. @Ana: Thanks – yes its very handy you know.

    @Mayet: It’s always nice to weclome new visitors and I’m glad you find something of interest. Thanks for sharing your tradition too!

    @Rigmor: Thanks for stopping by my blog again and for your nice comments!

  41. Renny
    I thought your essay on the Castle was great. It makes me want to see it. Yes Norway is very beautiful.
    About the summer solorance,Had a hard time getting to sleep, I had to pull down the shade as the sun was in my face.
    Good Job Renny
    Kay L


  43. Hello renny
    I realise how north people are waiting for Mid Summer and really I’m sure that you love this feast!
    I see that Mrs Lifecruiser have Midsummer Eve too!
    What a poetic and magical tradition! I love old legends! I will put 7 flowers under my pillow this night even if it’s not my condition (smile)
    I suppose you live fullest your life now cause the sun shines fast always!!!
    I’d like to celebrate with northfood and good beer the summer solstice!!!

  44. Hey Renny! I’ve been post hopping around your blog; I saw your Winter Solstice post too. I even read your comments to see how everyones’ version of summer Solstice is too. It is very interesting! I was once at a gathering one summer, up in Minnesota, and they had a bon fire and we were all dancing around the fire. It was so awesome! That was the time I saw the Northern Lights for the first time! I love your pictures as usual! It is just so beautiful! Happy St. Hans! :-)

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