The last few weeks have brought with them a few interesting seasonal events. June 23, the night before midsummer, is celebrated here as Sankt Hans Aften (St John’s Eve). It falls around the solstice, so it’s a good excuse to be out celebrating while the days are longest, ahead of the slow descent back into winter darkness.
Usually Sankt Hans Aften involves a giant bonfire, often lit over water and sometimes with a witch effigy on top. The midsummer sky is apparently riddled with witches (of course it is) and so the bonfire is meant to protect us all from their evildoing (of course it will). Everyone sits around the fire and listens to a speech by a person of note, and then at the end of the speech the crowd sings a hymn to the midsummer (Holger Drachmann’s ‘Midsommervise’ 1885).
I say usually because this year the heavens opened and unleashed an electric storm that really put paid to the festivities. I blame the witches. I ventured to the end of our street to see just how bad it was outside, and it was pretty bleak. The bonfire at Papirøen was going pretty well despite the rain, but the crowd was understandably sparse… needless to say my motivation to travel further afield was limited! Ah well, next year we will have to have a proper go at Sankt Hans Aftening – at least we have a whole year to learn the words to Midsommervise, right?
The other exciting cultural event taking place right now is… drum roll… Danish schoolies. Ha! I kid you not. Seems Denmark doesn’t have anywhere as tacky as the Gold Coast for the kids to decamp to, so they have had to invent their own traditions.
All of a sudden Copenhagen is full of recent high school graduates running around in what look like jaunty sailor caps, but are actually graduation caps (studenterhuer). The most visible part of the festivities is their time spent in studenterkørsel, which are basically party trucks. The studenterkørsel seem to be kind of makeshift conversions of all kinds of vehicles, from army trucks to delivery vans and goods trucks.
They are usually decorated with flowers, balloons and banners with witty slogans, a lot of which seem to be variations on the ‘roses are red…’ poem. I’ll have a go at translating – this one says something like ‘Hats are sweet, the Government is blue, so are 3F likewise’… I think it means they don’t like the Government? Who knows. Danish is hard – let’s just assume it means what I said it does.
This next one seems a little less political: ‘If the hat is red, the girl is sweet, if the hat is blue, he can not get, it up to stand’. Read into that what you will! As a bit more context, a dark red band on the cap indicates the person attended a gymnasium, or regular high school, whereas blue bands are associated with trade and technical colleges… seems very judgmental of these young ladies.
It’s very easy to locate the trucks – you hear them long before you see them because of the constant horn honking and sweet party jams being blasted out, not to mention the drunken hollering of the students.
The trucks drive the students around from one person’s home to the next, where their parents have food and drinks waiting. This would explain why a pack of them descended on our apartment courtyard to feast before leaving almost as quickly as they arrived. I guess it is a good way of spreading the carnage around between the parents?
The inside of the hats get signed by classmates, friends and family, and they also get little symbols cut into the lining and brim to mark specific ‘achievements’. As this is schoolies, this means things like nudie runs, drinking challenges, spew mishaps, and – my personal favourite – ‘jumping in the sea wearing nothing but the cap’.
So there you have it – Danish schoolies… what a delightful mess.