Midsummer is a highly celebrated festivity around the world, celebrating the solstice where the sun is the longest in the year. Some countries make a big deal out of celebrating midsummer and solstice, but what’s the midsummer celebration in Norway like?
Norwegians celebrate midsummer under the name “Saint John’s Eve” (Sankthansaften in Norwegian) by gathering for huge public bonfires in the evening. Some people also use this day to party after the bonfire, but this is mostly for younger adults, and not families.
Norwegians generally don’t take midsummer celebration very seriously, and it’s mostly a celebration where you spend an hour or two looking at the bonfires, but not much more than that. It’s not a public holiday.
With that said, there are still some things to keep in mind if you want to celebrate midsummer in Norway, so keep on reading to learn all the details about the celebration.
When to celebrate midsummer in Norway
It’s important to keep the dates in mind if you’re celebrating Saint John’s Eve / midsummer here in Norway, and the reason is because it’s celebrated on a different rate than our neighbors.
In Sweden, they celebrate midsummer itself, which is on June 24. This is also the day called Saint John’s Day.
In Norway, midsummer is celebrated on June 23, which is Saint John’s Eve. So midsummer is always celebrated one day before the Swedish midsummer festival.
It’s also important to keep in mind that midsummer or Saint John’s Eve is not on the same date as solstice. Solstice is typically a few days before midsummer (around June 21, but this can actually change around a bit).
How midsummer / Saint John’s Eve is celebrated
Despite Saint John’s Eve being a name to celebrate a Christian saint, the celebration itself is based on Pagan (old Norse) celebrations, and far outdates Christianity.
As mentioned already, there’s no huge celebration, but many families and group of friends meet up at the midsummer bonfire to enjoy the view of the burning fire.
Some families have a tradition of eating barbecue outside if it’s a nice and sunny day, but this is not really a midsummer tradition per se.
The Saint John’s Eve bonfire
The main celebration is to light a huge bonfire to celebrate the midsummer point. These bonfires are typically arranged by either local groups or by the municipality.
Most commonly the municipality organizes one big as well as a few smaller bonfires somewhere, then invites everything to participate by bringing things to put on the bonfire.
You will often find the bonfires close to a beach, as well as close to a city, town or community center. The municipalities’ websites will also tell you where to find your local midsummer bonfire if you are unsure.
There’s a general campfire ban in June (which also applies to bonfires), so you should not light your own bonfire. Instead aim to participate in growing the public ones. The fire department will be ready to help out if there are any problems, so it’s important to inform them of all bonfires prior to lighting them.
Midsummer is a big thing in our neighbor country Sweden
Many people are wondering about the floral arrangements, white dresses, games, and big family celebrations, but if this is your image of a midsummer celebration, then you’re going to want to visit Sweden instead of Norway.
Sweden has a long tradition of celebrating midsummer, and it’s a much bigger deal over there. This is one of Sweden’s biggest celebratory days, and attending this festival is a lot of fun.
Swedish midsummer celebration consists of a big party with dancing, cheering, dressing up in white, eating a big meal outside, and playing games. They even get the day off from work the following day!
So I urge everyone to visit Sweden to celebrate midsummer there if you have the chance. It’s a much better celebration than the Norwegian Saint John’s Eve celebration. I can’t really tell you much more about seeing, seeing as I’m not too familiar with Swedish traditions personally.
But as a bonus, it’s definitely possible to experience both at the same time since the Norwegian celebration is one day before the Swedish one.
Nicklas is the owner and editor of The Norway Guide, and is responsible for most of the content on the website.
He lives in Skien, Norway with his wife and two children. Nicklas is specialized in Norwegian ecology (including Norway’s geology, wildlife and flora) from his degree in Ecology And Nature Management at University of South-Eastern Norway, but has a particular interest in tourism and content creation.
His biggest hobbies are fishkeeping, going on hikes with his dog, and rooting for the local football team.