It was appropriate that after touring “Hamlet’s Castle,” as the tour books all call Kronborg Slot, we would head for the beach at Liseleje to participate in the Midsummer festivities there: a Midsummer Night’s dream. We arrived early, around 8:30 p.m.
Down on the beach, a huge bonfire was awaiting the evening. In Denmark, Midsummer’s Eve is also known as Sankt Hans Aften (St. John’s Eve), celebrated on the evening of June 23rd by setting bonfires on the beach to sacrifice an effigy of a witch in remembrance of church-sanctioned witch burnings from the 16th and 17th centuries. Here’s the bonfire and its witch at Liseleje:
As the sun went down, people started to show up. Here’s what it looked like when we first arrived…
…compared to near sundown:
We thought they’d light the bonfire as soon as the sun set since we could see bonfires blazing down the coast at Tisvildeleje.
But, first, someone on the top of the dune grabbed an amplified microphone and droned on and on; it was probably only 20 minutes, but it seemed like forever. We asked a Danish couple that had sat down on the sand next to us who was speaking and what was she saying. The response: “She’s a local politician; it’s the same speech every year – she’s not saying anything.” Politicians, it seems, are interchangeable around the globe.
Finally, speech over, the fire starters approach, as the crowd sang a traditional song, “We Love Our Land.”
It caught quickly; we could feel the heat all the way up on the dunes.
And then it was over. We left before the fire died, but it looked like most of the crowd planned to stay until the beer ran out.