The evening of June 23rd, Sankt Hans or St.John's Eve, is the eve of
celebration before the Feast Day of St.John the Baptist. The Gospel
of Luke (Luke 1:36, 56–57) states that John was born about six
months before Jesus, therefore the feast of John the Baptist was
fixed on June 24, six months before Christmas. This feast day is
one of the very few saints' days to mark the supposed anniversary
of the birth, rather than the death, of the saint commemorated.
The Feast of St.John coincides with the June solstice also referred to
as Midsummer. The Christian holy day is fixed at June 24th, but, in
some countries, festivities are celebrated the night before, on
St.John's Eve. The feast is celebrated in various countries.
Fire is the most fundamental element associated with the
Saint John's Eve celebration, giving of thanks for bountiful
harvests. To keep the evil forces away, the bonfires were usually
lit on high ground. Placing a witch – made of old clothes stuffed with
hay – on the bonfire is a tradition which did not become common
until the 20th century.
In the Scandinavian countries, in which the evening is called Sankt Hans
or Jonsok, short for Saint Johannes or Saint John's Wake, the tradition is
to gather around a large fire. In some countries (Denmark) a witch burning
is included. The witch is represented by a doll, often made by the children,
wearing old clothes and having an evil look. This evening is a large
celebration, often enjoyed together with drinking, eating and festiveness
for the whole town.