Saturday, June 25, 2016


It is Midtsommer! The days are long and the nights aren't very dark either. The moon may have something to do with that. I was up at 4 this morning and didn't need to turn on any lights to see where I was going. Normally I don't get up quite that early, but hey! It's the weekend! My brain activated before my body was able to get out of bed and I made up for it with a nap later on. One of the dead giveaways for knowing it is midtsommer is my Swedish neighbor (and chiropractor when I need one) is celebrating. The Swedes really make it a major party time for everyone. One of the reasons given for the celebration is the birthday of John the Baptist, although I don't think the calendar was the same back then and I doubt there was a birth certificate involved. Sankthans is what it is sometimes referred to and means St. John. Of course it was a pagan celebration long before all that.

Scandinavians of all persuasions celebrate it on about the 23rd of June, Midtsommer eve. Correct me if I am wrong and I might be. It is right about the time of the summer solstice, not coincidentally, or sommersolverv in Norwegian. It is celebrated with lots of bonfires and sometimes they are big. I think I read that the record height for a bonfire in Norway was about 40 or 45 meters (132 to 148.5 feet) which is a damn big recreational fire.

It is also celebrated in many other countries like Spain and Croatia , as well as most of Europe and even here in the United States. I don't hear much about it here probably because it is nearly the 4th of July and that takes up most of our holiday concentration. Most celebrations here were brought over by European immigrants. I am thinking probably the ones before my parents.

Locally, at North House Folk School it is celebrated with a wooden boat show, puppets, storytelling, a dance, and a bunch of other activities. On the Home Page the guy in the picture at the upper right rowing is Mark. The whole thing (a folk school in northern Minnesota) was his idea and I was privileged to serve on the original board for the first 6 years or so, but I digress.

In an ideal world we should all (those of us in the Northern hemisphere anyway) take this time to get out and enjoy life. It is a great time for vacations and being outdoors. There are a few unfortunates that have to work even harder this time of year. Those of us in the building business and all those in the tourist business have to make hay while the sun shines and time off is a dream for a different season. Sometimes we still sneak away for a while anyway while the days are warm and long. I am lucky enough to have been far enough north at this time of year so that it almost gets dark before lighting up again. I think I need less sleep when in that latitude and can save my hibernating tendencies for winter.

If I really needed a summer culture fix there are a few interesting things going on locally, but I think I would head to Duluth, that cultural mecca of Northern Minnesota. I could take in a Lyric Opera  of the North's production of Les Uncomfortables. It has been getting rave reviews. The Tall Ships are coming in August which would be awesome to see, too.

Here in Grand Marais we have the 26th annual Art Festival on the weekend of July 9th and 10th with over 70 local and regional artists. Sometimes the weather can play a major role in that, however, as it is outdoors. Fisherman's Picnic is a big deal in early August. There is a parade, fireworks, log rolling, fishburgers, softball tournament, contests, raffles, live music and my personal favorite, the fish toss. Four days of mayhem on the harbor.

The following weekend is the Pow-wow and Rendezvous Days at Grand Portage by the Canadian border. Even I have played music there for the Voyageur encampment.

I'm not mentioning all the other stuff that goes on, but there are foot races and bike races, museums and berry picking, and constant activities that aren't difficult to find. All this in the next six weeks or so.

It is a short and intense season and it is under way now.


  1. It sounds wonderful. I am not a fan of summer - and it still sounds wonderful.
    And the Tall Ships would be a must see for me.

  2. you live in an interesting corner of the country; "fish tossing"? do all y'all do a fish-slapping dance too? :)

    enjoy the summer dayz!

  3. Hurray for Midtsommer! My husband doesn't have a drop of Scandinavian blood in him, but he's somehow inherited the penchant for giant bonfires. I'm afraid to show him your post in case he sets drought-ridden western Alberta on fire in an attempt to emulate your photos (particularly the one with the giant wood-tower).

  4. I love hearing about other traditions and celebrations from other cultures, especially when our own get a bit tainted and plastic-y with all the commercialism and patriotic hype. Those bonfires are something else.

  5. Yes, I've heard the Scandinavians are quite perky at this time of the year. They must be feeling an ancient itch to get in a Viking longboat and do some raiding. Having a butt nekkid sauna is another popular pastime that ought to be cherished.

  6. Pow-wow! Rendezvous! Voyageur! Grand Portage! I enjoyed these Canadianesque references in your post today. And you live in Grand Marais, Minnesota? Super! I did not know that.

  7. One of the things I miss the most is celebrating summer solstice. I remember attending bonfires as a kid/teenager and celebrating with friends. And I remember coming home from partying at about 2:00 a.m. and the birds are starting to sing and you can see the first of the daylight appearing.

    Thanks for making me remember some fond memories! Enjoy your summer and all the festivals that come with it.

  8. Too much to do. I prefer winter when I can use snow as an excuse for inactivity.
    the Ol'Buzzard

  9. Elephant's Child, Summer up here is not very hot at all. 80 (26C) is unusually warm. The Viking ship Draken Harald HÃ¥rfagre has sailed from Norway and is in Quebec now It should be here in August.

    anne marie, Flinging a large fish is excitement enough. I'm afraid the larger fish we use might cause damage, but thanks for the Python fix!

    Diane, I just saw a tower of over 47 meters (155 feet!) going for the record. I am sure it wouldn't be a good idea where you are or in California.

    Agi T, Nothing like the patriotic feeling you get from waving an American flag made in China.

    Gorilla B, I'm getting a bit past my raiding years, but nekkid is the only way to go in a sauna as well as many other pursuits. You might not understand being hairy all over, but use your imagination.

    Debra, This close to the border makes for a lot of cultural spillover. If you ever get out this way, do stop by.

    JACKIESUE, It is, isn't it?

    Pixel Peeper, I would love to spend a few summers on the other side of the pond while I can still stay awake for some of the festivities.

    Ol'Buzzard, It takes all winter to rest up for this stuff. Then I go back to partial hibernation.

  10. I wish Midsummer was so joyous here, but it's so damn hot and humid that people tend to stay indoors as much as possible, only creeping out to do necessary chores early, early in the morning or long past sundown. You risk heat stroke or hest exhaustion otherwise.

    You know all that winter hibernating you folks way up North do in January? That's what June is like in SC.

    I'd love to spend a summer Minnesota.

  11. in the holiday morning you wake up at 4 am that is quite a courageous step ,
    liked so much reading about bonfires amazing photos thank you for wonderful sharing God bless you alwys

  12. Jennifer, You have my sympathy for the heat. Minnesota would love to have you for the summer (and maybe more if you wanted to stay awhile).

    baili, Getting up in the early light is quite delightful, especially if I can have a nap later. And thank you for sharing your world.

    Professor, It is glorious, indeed!

  13. Somehow a bonfire for the winter solstice makes more sense but who am I to deny Norwegians their pleasures. They even eat lutefisk.
    Anyone wants to make a high fire, a few 45 gallon drums of gasoline in a burning garage make a very high fire when the heat blows the screw in caps out and the gasoline shoots straight up. Not our gas nor our garage but I was there to see it at 2:00 am.

  14. Summer is for having fun. Pity ours here is so very damp. But the English are great at ignoring damp; they picnic and enjoy open air festivals all the more if its muddy underfoot:

    I noticed you’ve stopped following me.

  15. Here in St. Louis we celebrate the sheen on our skin the moment we leave the house. We have parties and hold contests on who has the largest sweat stains. It was horribly humid last week but since I'm trying to always be "glass half full" I will say we're lucky to have air conditioning...

  16. Blog Fodder, Winter or summer, it doesn't matter. In the winter you just melt a small patch of snow and in the summer it takes the chill off. I've been to a few fires I'd rather forget, also.

    Friko, I am following you again. I don't know what happened there. You reminded me of an old British sitcom, Rising Damp. Remember, the rain is what keeps it so lush and green.

    Sioux, I've been down your way in the summer and it is a bit stifling to be sure. About the glass. I am lately of the opinion that it is always refillable.

  17. Your season of continual festivals sounds like ours, except ours is three weeks longer. I tend to hibernate for the summer to avoid the heat and humidity and the crowds and the noise. I do believe summer makes me grumpy. Those are some awesome fires in those pictures. Enjoy all the fun!

  18. Damn, I'm jealous. I want a Midtsommer celebration like that. Summer is my favorite time of year, but apparently everyone else is too busy melting to properly celebrate with me.

  19. Happy Midtsommer or St. Hans or Jonsok as it's most often called in Norway.

  20. jenny_o, It must be a Northern thing. It's too hot down south so they have fun during winter. I expect to play just a bit this summer.

    ABFTS, Sometimes I just celebrate alone in my own little world. Screw 'em all if they don't know how to have fun. I do have some friends north of Denver trying to entice me back out there. I might wait a few months and see.

    thethoughtsandlifeofdme, Most everyone where you are will be on holiday for the next month. I hope you get to enjoy the long days.

  21. I remember running the "Longest Day" 10K in Keflavik, Iceland at midnight the first day of summer in 2004. It was raining, so it wasn't terribly bright out, but yikes, I'll never do THAT again.
    And it has nothing to do with running ten kilometers at midnight.
    It has a LOT to do with running ten kilometers.

  22. Woohoo! Happy Midtsommer, Jono.
    Keep it hot.

  23. Sounds like a great time Jono! As far as those pictures, as my husband would say, "now that's a fire!"