The Land of the Midnight Sun

OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Denmark is not the land of the midnight sun. That title belongs only to places above the Arctic Circle where the sun actually does not set at night.

BUT… Denmark is getting pretty close. This coming Saturday, the 21st, is the longest day of the year, Midsummer’s Day aka the summer solstice. And on that day, the sun will rise at 4:30am and set at 10:15pm, giving us a total of almost 18 hours of sunlight.

Which is pretty awesome if you think about it. But also maybe not so awesome? Because it wreaks havoc with my sleep schedule. At first I thought it was because it stays light so late, so it makes turning your brain off and actually falling asleep more difficult.

I mean, just look at what 10pm looks like in Aarhus!

10pm Sky in Aarhus

10pm Sky in Aarhus


It’s like it gets to 3pm, and it just never gets any darker than that. And even when the sun does finally set, the twilight lingers until well after 11pm. And it’s bright enough that I don’t need any lights if I have to get up to make my way to the bathroom.

But I’ve recently decided that the really hard part is the early morning sun. I keep waking up at 5:00 in the morning and thinking it’s well past 8:00, then finding it difficult to go back to sleep. It’s crazy bananas.

Luckily, I’ve dug out a sleeping mask we bought for long plane trips and have been wearing that to bed. Otherwise, I don’t think I’d be able to get any sleep at all as I’m a fairly light sleeper.

This is what I'm like to the sun in the morning.

I’m not the best morning person.

We’re trying to decide what we should do to mark the occasion of midsummer night. We may try to stay up all night and see the sun rise, but we’ll see if we actually do it in the end. I never was one for all nighters.

The Danes actually celebrate the occasion on June 23rd, what they call Sankthans (their version of the Catholic holiday St. John’s Day, celebrating the birth of St. John the Baptist). And they mark this holiday with huge bonfires over which effigies of witches are burned. I’m not even kidding. Actually, they burn them to send them off to Germany, where, clearly, all the evil witches belong.

We’ll definitely try to track down some of the bonfires and see how the Danes celebrate this holiday. If you’re in Aarhus for the occasion, you can check this calendar to find some bonfires near you.


13 thoughts on “The Land of the Midnight Sun

  1. That photo of the “night” sky is cool, specially for someone from lower latitudes like me 🙂

    I only stayed in Aarhus until mid-May, and even then the sunset was already close to 10 pm.
    Regarding your sleeping problems when do you figure they’ll figure out about proper blinds and install them everywhere?
    It’s strange that countries that we often see as more reserved have almost no cover on windows while more latin countries are the opposite. I didn’t find it over the top in Aarhus, but remember going to the Netherlands when i was younger and in the evenings you would have free view into every household on a street as there were absolutely no blinds/curtains in sight.

    BTW those Sankthans events sound cool so i’m looking forward to your post/photos on them 😉


    • You know how people up here in Scandinavia don’t smile at or talk to strangers on the street? That’s because we’re trying to let them have their privacy even in public. The same goes for blinds and curtains. People are brought up to mind their own buisness, and that extends to creepy lurking in other people’s windows. It’s just a cultural thing… We don’t want to hide behind closed curtains, making our houses dark and glum. When the sun is out, we make the most of it. After all, we only had 25 hours os so of sunligt for the enire month of january. Sitting in the dark, because you’re afraid that your neighbours are going to see what you’re eating for dinner just seems a bit… counterproductive, when the sun is finally here.


      • I agree about leaving the curtains open. We have these huge windows in our apartment and only got curtains for them after about 6 months, and then only because we had out of town guests who were sleeping in our living room and we wanted them to have some privacy. I love the light so much, I’m also loath to cover the windows.


    • I’ve heard that about the Scandinavian countries before, that they don’t use blinds/curtains as much as other countries. We aren’t really blind people much either, as I like to have to light coming in, so I didn’t notice it so much when we first moved here. We have a blackout blind for our bedroom, but the problem is that we have to leave it up a bit at night to let the air in from the open window, so a little light still sneaks in. Ah well. It’s not really a problem worth complaining about 🙂

      I’ll definitely have to take a lot of pictures on Sankthans! I’m interested to see what it’s like.


  2. I’m flying to the US from Hamburg on the 23rd, bummer I’ll miss catching a bonfire in Aarhus! I’ll be here on Saturday to catch the longest day though 🙂 Looking forward to seeing photos from however you decide to celebrate!


    • Are you celebrating the longest day with anything special? I’ve heard that flying out of Hamburg can be cheaper than flying out of Copenhagen, but I looked into it the other day and it didn’t seem to be that different. We’re buying tickets to the US right now, and I hate the whole process. So stressful! Have a good flight! 🙂


  3. That early morning light really screws with the night time sleep cycle, doesn’t it?

    Enjoy your longest-day-of-the-year celebrations. If there isn’t rain/clouds, we’ll be watching the bonfires too. During a longish drive yesterday, we saw one huge pile of wood all set to be lit — and it was about 20 feet from the house on one side, and the garage on the other. I can just imagine what one of the frequent mountain wind gusts could do to THAT!! It was in a fairly isolated area, but still … 😮


    • So true! It’s really gusty today, and I can just imagine one of those big gusts coming along and whipping the flame high. Sometimes, some of the safety regulations here seem a little lax. Like on New Year’s Eve, when people were setting off fireworks in every intersection in the city, between buildings and cars and lots of spectators. Do they do that in Norway? Crazy! But I’m looking forward to these huge bonfires. I haven’t seen any set up yet, but then they don’t get going until Monday so my guess is they’ll set up this weekend. I look forward to seeing your pictures and how Norway’s midsummer differs from the Danish celebrations!


      • Yes, fireworks are everywhere on New Year’s Eve, although they’ve been regulated a bit more these last few years. It makes me a little nervous … but I’m always out there taking it all in!

        I’m working on a short post now about Midsummer celebrations in Norway; we haven’t ever really “celebrated” and I hadn’t talked to my husband about it much either. Like Denmark (and Sweden), it’s also today/tonight. I hope some of the families around the fjord have a bonfire; we’ll see!! (If so, my camera will be out! 🙂 )


  4. Pingback: The Danish Holidays May Throw You For a Loop | Our House in Aarhus

  5. Pingback: the rhythm of life | An American in Norway, a Citizen of the World

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