June 23 - Jonsok in Norway

Posted on June 23, 2020

In Europe, this is the time of Midsummer festivals and of St. John's Day and St. John's Eve. In each nation, the holiday has a slightly different twist and of course a different name. In Norwegian, Jonsok means "wake of Saint John."

I always think of lights and bonfires being important in mid-winter festivals (because those nights are so long and people miss the light - ESPECIALLY those who live in high latitudes, like Norwegians! But bonfires are super common in Midsummer festivals as well - including Jonsok.

In earlier times, Jonsok was one of the biggest holidays of the year. Not only were bonfires common, but making and wearing flower wreaths, dancing around the maypole - all these traditions are familiar to other Midsummer holidays. Nowadays, many people celebrate by having cookouts, camping, or taking non-camp overnight trips. (Of course 2020-COVID-19 stuff might make changes to all the traditions.)

By the way, why is a maypole decorated in June, in Norway, when other nations make it the centerpiece of their May 1 holiday? Well, no flowers are blooming that early in Norway! Almost two months later and the longest day / shortest night of the year makes today great timing for a maypole!

Other Jonsok traditions include eating pancakes with butter and sugar, eating strawberries, telling fortunes.


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