Annual Midsummer Celebration
Saturday Jun 22 - Saturday Jun 22, 2019
5:00pm - 10:00pm
Jens Jensen Prairie Landscape Park
2212 Washington Street
Elk Horn, IA 51531
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Sankt Hans Aften
Before Christianity came to Denmark, Scandinavian peoples celebrated the longest day as a supernatural struggle between light and dark, heat and cold. Since the feast day of Saint John the Baptist occurred on June 23, near the date of the annual summer solstice, the Christian Church emphasized this celebration in Scandinavia. “Hans” is the diminutive of “Johannes” or “John”. Today it’s a very good excuse to stay up late, have fun, and light bonfires.
In the late 19th century, it became common to affix a figure resembling a witch on top of a bonfire. The witch is said to be sent back to Bloksberg in the Hartz Mountains of Germany, reflecting a traditional uneasiness Danes feel about their powerful neighbor to the south. Some Danes regard this particular part of the tradition with mixed emotions as it evokes memories of the horrible persecutions and "witch" burnings carried out in Denmark and other European countries in the 17th century. However, this custom is only a little part of the overall tradition, and it is extremely easy to immerse yourself in the general atmosphere of friends gathering together, which surrounds the celebration.
Over time, the tradition of lighting bonfires became dominant and other rituals gradually withered away as people enjoyed the coziness of gathering around a warm fire. Songs and music are a part of this tradition, which during the 19th century the singing of traditional folk songs were replaced by patriotic songs. The best known of these is the Danish patriotic song, Vi elsker vort land (We love our country) also known as Midsommervisen (Midsummer song). This song is sung at every Sankt Hans Aften celebration across the country and it is thus very important for Danes to know this song, which was written in 1885 by the Danish poet Holger Drachmann; the original version included music by P.E. Lange-Müller. In 1979 the Danish pop band "Shu-bi-dua" composed a new melody for the song, and since then either version has been accepted and used at Sankt Hans Aften celebrations among Danish groups. For the full lyrics click here.
Join us for our annual event and get the exclusive first look at our "New Nordic Cuisine" exhibit, our most ambitious exhibit to-date! Enjoy a beautiful Scandinavian-inspired dinner and dig into our locally sourced Tasting Buffet. Explore amazing flavors from our community, and find your favorites!
6 pm – Food
6:30 pm – Documentary screening: Return: Native American Women Reclaim Foodways for Health & Spirit
7-9 pm – Live music by ukulele band Britches & Hose
9pm – Bonfire! Join us for the Danish tradition "Sankt Hans Aften" in the Jens Jensen Prairie Landscape Park
Spend a summer night at the Museum of Danish America: enjoy the nature, our exhibits, the food, and your favorite people. Rain or shine! Our Sankt Hans Aften festival is made possible through support from Shelby County State Bank, Landmands Bank, Danish Mutual Insurance Association, Marne Elk Horn Telephone Co., and the Heartland Chapter of the Rebild National Park Society!