By Diane Ako
The summer solstice is June 21, the longest day of the year. I don't remember celebrating it much in my youth here in America, but I bet that's because an extra hour of sun is no big deal in Hawaii.
However, it's a big deal in Scandinavia, where summer might consist of a grand total of three consecutive sunny days. Since my husband is from Denmark, we try to observe it. It's the most celebrated holiday after Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.
Called Sankt Hans Aften in Danish, the town comes together in the late afternoon to light large bonfire meant to ward away evil spirits. There's a straw witch on the top, which symbolizes the Church's witch burnings of the 16th and 17th century. There are also speeches, picnics and songs. Claus says his mom's town still holds this event, fake witch and all.
Some years, energy and scheduling permitting, we get together with friends for some food and fellowship. After all, what's a Danish get together without a heavy buffet and a small but powerful beverage selection?
We also clear out a party room for those who imbibe too much and need to sleep over. Based on anecdotal and observational evidence, it seems to me like a popular Danish thing, because I don't know many Americans who drink and then sleep at their friend's house. (I don't know why they don't. I think it's a great idea.)
This year, we had a small fire on a grill which kind of served as the mini-bonfire, followed by a functional use as an actual food cooking station. The most surprising lesson for me is that the Danes bake bread on their campfires, whereas Americans melt s'mores.
Bread! Funny! Snobrød, they call it.
Turns out, it's those thin doughs like the kind from the Pillsbury can. Of course, the Europeans disdain the pre-made American fast foods, so Claus recalls of his childhood that his mom and aunts made the dough from scratch.
An embarrassment to Danes everywhere, we used the Pillsbury dough and we even bastardized it by including a hot dog. Yum!
What's a Danish get together without beverages? On offering, schnapps (snaps in Danish) and black licorice (sort lakrids.) I can recommend neither, though I'm sure the Danes will say, "More for us!"