Restauration Lodge contributed this article from their summer newsletter about an important Norwegian Midsummer holiday!
St. John’s Day or Jonosk is celebrate on June 24 and is a religious holiday commemorating the birth os St.John the Baptist. Prior to the introduction of Christianity to Norway, the date was used to celebrate the summer solstice, the longest and brightest day of the year. Because of the dual history of the date, the remaining Midsummer traditions are an amalgamation of both Pagan and Christian customs.
Did you know?
- The practice of lighting bonfires during Midsummer comes from the belief that fire “awakens” the ground for the next growing season and gives renewed strength to the sun. It was also believed to scare away evil supernatural spirits and witches who were thought to roam more freely this time of the year.
- According to folklore, medicinal plants and herbs were believed to be at their peak potency during the summer solstice, lending support to the belief that supernatural beings were prone to scour the countryside collecting ingredients for their potions at Midsummer.
- In the 19th century, it was popular in western Norway for children to dress in bride and groom outfits and participate in mock weddings as a celebration of new life.
- According to Christian legends, the crucifix at Rødal stave church in Norway was believed to contain special powers. During Midsummer, the crucifix was said to sweat, giving off healing power to those who touched it. Devotees made annual pilgrimages to the church up until 1840.
- St. John’s Day was observed as a public holy day in Norway until 1771.
- The most popular foods consumed on Midsummer’s Eve are roasted items like hot dogs or pølse and picnic fare such as pickled herring, smoked salmon, or open-faced sandwiches. Norwegian strawberries and rømmegrøt are also common treats.
- In celebration of Midsummer, the Norwegian town of Ålesund constructed a massive bonfire of wooden pallets 132.71 feet in the air in 2010.