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Jonsoksdag Means Fires On the Mountain Tops

Budstikken, May 1984

One of the days all of Norway celebrates is Jonsok is day. It is also called St. Hans day or mid-summer day, June 24th. Actually most of the observance takes place the evening before when "midtsommars-baler" (mid-summer bonfires) dot the countryside.

In the church calendar St. Hans or Jonsok is dedicated to John the Baptist. As you can see his name is used in several variations. In Catholic times Jonsok night was a night for a wake and our ancestors traveled to holy sites or to the old stave churches for midnight mass.

But the day was celebrated before Christianity was introduced. It was connected to the summer solstice. Children would wander about the woods and meadows gathering all kinds of flowers which they braided into long strands and wound about their heads. The adults tidied up the house and the surroundings. Flowers, greens and bushes were placed on window sills, over doors and in the fireplace. No special work was begun on Jonsok eve for if you did you were certain of trouble.

Fire was important in the old days and people prayed to both fire and the sun. Fire had the ability to give the sun new power to heal and the Jonsok  fire was believed to keep illness away from men and animals in the summer. On the old primitive primstav calendar the day was sometimes marked with the carving of the sun.

Mid-summers. or Jonsok's eve, is celebrated today. There may be a parade as people make their way to a gathering site. There are games for children, perhaps a tug of war for men, a dance for everyone. Certainly there is a pyramid bonfire after everyone's appetite has been satisfied with food from the grill and the lunch box.

Those folks who were on the Samband charter flight to Valdres in 1976 were scheduled to arrive in time to take part in the Jonsok's  eve festivities. However, an air controller's strike in Canada delayed an incoming plane from Europe which was to have made a turn-around back to Norway. This made it necessary to ferry another plane from Texas for the flight. This plane. in turn, was delayed by bad weather. The problems delayed take-off nine hours. When the American Valdres arrived in Norway all they saw of Jonsok's eve festivities were dying fires dotting the day on the bus trip from Gardermoen airport, Oslo, to Fagernes. This all goes to prove one should never begin a project on Jonsok's eve. Witches are always out on their brooms on the way to Blokksberg, or wherever they congregate, and resent others invading their air space.

Additional comments by Betty Rockswold:

All Norway celebrates Jonsoksdag, today and as it was in ancient times.  It is also called St. Hans Day or mid-summer day, June 24th.  In Catholic times Jonsok night was a night for wake and our ancestors traveled to holy sites or to the old stave churches for midnight mass.
But the day was celebrated before Christianity was introduced.  It was connected to the summer solstice.  No special work was begun on Jonsok eve for if you did, the superstition was that your were in for trouble.  People spruced themselves and their houses the day before and readied a large pile of wood or brush on a high place nearby.
Fire was important in the old days and people prayed to both fire and the sun.  Fire had the ability to give the sun new power to heal and the Jonsok fire was believed to keep illness away from people and animals in the summer.
There may be a parade as people make their way to a gathering site.  Games were planned for children and adults alike an a dance for everyone.  The fire was lit when it started to become dark and the festivities began.  In mid-summer the sun doesn't set until late, but children and grown-ups wouldn't miss Jonsokdag.  It's an enjoyable time for friends and neighbors when a good time is had by all.


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