The fire speech.

The Danish tradition of burning a witch and giving a fire speech at midsummer keeps us mentally warm the rest of the year.

The fire speech.

By Michell Léon

In Denmark, it's tradition to burn a witch every year on the night of June, 23rd.

It sounds a bit morbid, but don't worry. It's not a real witch. It's made out of branches from last autumn's trimming of the garden, and they are now dry enough to set fire to.

All over the country big piles of branches are set on fire tonight, and at the top of every pile is a witch-like sculpture made of old clothes.

The ritual

The tradition, which is called Saint Hans, isn't really about witches, but a celebration of midsummer. From now on, the days get shorter, and darkness starts sneaking in on life in Denmark.

To cope with it, we celebrate the light, and what better way to do it than burn something? We purge ourselves from darkness through the ritual of fire, and to make sure we get rid of it all, we put a witch on top. It's probably not necessary, but you know, just in case.

The speaker

Then, as the flames of the bonfire reach the witch, a carefully selected individual gets the honor of giving the fire speech.