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Festivals of Western Europe

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Perseus
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« Reply #15 on: April 29, 2009, 01:31:26 pm »

PINSE (Pentecost, or Whitsun) The fiftieth day after Easter

    Pentecost or Whitsun is the great spring holiday. For weeks beforehand housewives are scrubbing, scouring and putting everything to rights. Tailors are busy, too, because Whitsun is the traditional time for new summer clothes. Since beech trees are beginning to bud at this season many Copenhagen residents go by bicycle to woods and forests and gather armfuls of tender young branches. These boughs are used to decorate the houses--in symbol of welcome to early spring.

    According to an old folk saying, "the sun dances on Pinse morning." Townsfolk, as well as country people rise at dawn to witness this miracle. In Copenhagen it is customary to get up early and go to Frederiksberg hill to watch the sun rise and "see it dance." According to custom, coffee, which is served in the garden, must be on the table by six o'clock, although the sun is up long before that hour.

    Anden Pinsedag, or Whit Monday, is a general holiday. People make excursions to the woods for picnics or go to rural restaurants for an outdoor party and a good country meal, followed by dancing and singing. Indeed, singing is an important feature of most celebrations, as this is the day when singing society members, accompanied by wives and children, make all kinds of rural expeditions.

SANKT HANS AFTEN (Saint John's Eve) June 23

    Midsummer Eve--the longest night in the year--is universally celebrated with merrymaking, rejoicing and building enormous fires on the hills. Folk dancing, speeches and singing make this night a memorable occasion for young and old.

    Often bonfires are topped by old tar barrels or other inflammable materials. Sometimes, also, the effigy of a witch (doubtless a pagan symbol of Winter or Death) crowns the immense pile of wood and rubbish. As flames mount, lighting the sky for miles about, the pre-Christian drama of the conquest of darkness by light is unconsciously reenacted; for on Midsummer Day the sun reaches its highest point in the heavens.

    In coast hamlets blazing fires are made along the shore, and people going out in boats to view the bonfires sing romantic songs in honor of the beautiful summer night.

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