Around 40 people participated in Danish Women’s Network’s annual Midsummer celebration Saturday evening. And not only the women enjoyed this traditional event, both husbands and children were also invited to join the barbecue party at the lakeside villa.
Karin Sarfelt and her husband Jan Sarfelt were the ones to host the party in beautiful surroundings at their lakeside villa in South-eastern Bangkok. Their garden situated just next the the river was the perfect spot for celebrating Sankt Hans aften.
The traditions of Sankt Hans includes having a bonfire and send the witch off to Bloksbjerg, and to sing the traditional midsummer hymn called Midsommervisen in Danish. And with everyone gathered around the fire singing the Danish song, it was like being in Denmark and not actually in Bangkok. Small blond girls in nice dresses sitting on small plastic chairs in front of the fire, their eyes sparkling and 30 or so voices singing out “Vi elsker vort land” meaning “We love our country” was truly a special moment.
And the traditions are important for expatriates because they are a way to keep Danish even you live abroad, as the hostess Karin said:
“I get so much more Danish when I live out here and not in Denmark. Earlier today I was teaching my children the history of the Sankt Hans tradition, in Denmark I never thought of it.”
And the history of the Danish midsummer party called Sankt Hans aften is indeed a special one, according to Wikipedia Sankt Hans has been celebrated since the times of the Vikings by visiting healing water wells and making a large bonfire to ward away evil spirits. And today bonfires on the beach, speeches, picnics and songs are still held in traditional ways.
To the tradition of burning a witch on the bonfire Wikipedia writes:
“In the 1920s a tradition of putting a witch made of straw and cloth on the bonfire emerged as a remembrance of the church’s witch burnings from 1540 to 1693. This burning sends the “witch” away to Bloksbjerg, the mountain ‘Brocken’ in the Harz region of Germany where the great witch gathering was thought to be held on this day.”
If the witch from Bangkok will find her way all the way to Germany is unknown, but what is certain is that she has some extra time because the traditional evening of celebrating Sankt Hans is on Wednesday 23.
Back in Bangkok everyone enjoyed a lovely night organized by the Danish Women’s Network. Before and after the bonfire everyone met new and old friends from the Danish expat community in Bangkok, the part of community which is based on family relations and not on business connections.
And the children was surely a central part in this evening by the lake. Playing football matches in the lawn, playing around in the villa, and hosting piano concerts in the bedroom – to big amusement for everyone, even the host Jan who ended in the hospital cause of being a bit too much into the children’s football match.
To complete the picture of a Danish summer-night the Danish women had organized a barbecue consisting of delicious hotdogs and burgers with pickles, fried onions and remulade. All the Danish way, which made some the guests memorise the joys of the Danish variation of a fastfood takeaway called “Pølsevogn.”
And while everyone enjoyed the night at the lakeside in Bangkok another group of Danes abroad prepared for a big match in South Africa. The Danish national football team playing against Cameron – also one of the biggest subjects of conversation for the Danes living in Thailand.
Read more about Sankt Hans aften at Wikipedia.
Read more about Danish Women’s Network.