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Midnight Sun on the Transfarelv beach in Alta

There is an opposition in everything. At the darkest time of the year, we celebrate Christmas. And at the exact opposite end, when the midnight sun is at its highest, we celebrate Midsummer. Curiously, neither of these holidays occur exactly on the darkest and brightest nights of the year. Astronomically speaking, the actual Winter and Summer solstices happen on the 21 st of December and the 21 st of June, respectively.

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Midnight Sun on the Transfarelv beach in Alta

Midsummer’s Eve is commonly known in Norway as St. Hans aften (St. John’s eve) or Jonsok (from norse Jonsvaka, “John’s Wake”). Like many other Christian celebrations, St. Hans was originally a pagan festival. The central element of the celebration is the lighting of a large bonfire. Traditionally, the bonfire was lit around farms to “wake up” the ground. When the light from the fire shone on the fields they were believed to become extra fertile that year.

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Midnight Sun Lathari in Alta

The fire was also meant to ward off evil spirits and scare away witches. Medieval superstition said that witches were particularly active on Midsummer’s eve, as they were out harvesting ingredients for their potions or flying off to a witches’ gathering. In some areas a symbolic witch (made of wood or wicker) is put on the bonfire, but this is actually a recent tradition that only became popular in the late 19 th century.

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Midnight Sun from Transfarelv beach in Alta – facing west

St. Hans is a celebration of nature, life and fertility. Many of the traditions are connected with the renewal of life. If a girl picked five or seven different herbs and flowers on this day and put them under her pillow at night, she would dream of her husband to be.

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Sun shining down Tromsø’s main street at 2am

Midsummer’s Eve is largely a secular celebration, and an opportunity for everyone to have a night out close to nature. Families gather by the river or on a beach to have a good time, barbeque and enjoy the evening sun. In popular salmon fishing rivers like Alta and Tana, this day is also the last chance to go fishing without a license.

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Midnight Sun at Nordkapp (North Cape)

Today, most people prefer just to light up a small campfire where they can roast hot dogs and marshmallows (in many places this is also due to fire safety regulations). Large bonfires, where they occur, are often arranged and monitored by the local fire brigade.

Midnight Sun on the Transfarelv beach in Altamidnight-sun-alta-beach

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Midnight Sun from Komsa Mountain, Alta