Solstice bonfire in the Salzkammergut

When the "Longest Day" Becomes the Coolest Night -
Discover a very special tradition of the region

Celebrate an atmospheric start to summer high above the Salzkammergut with a traditional solstice fire, regional live music and a great supporting programme for the whole family.

Do you still remember the holidays in your childhood? Of the first cable car ride, of the endless water fights and of writing postcards? French fries in the swimming pool, the sweet lemonade with a straw from the bottle or the first solstice fire on the mountain?

This is because on June 21, the sun in the northern hemisphere of the Earth will be vertically above the Tropic of Capricorn, also known as the Tropic of Cancer. Although it is never vertical above us in our latitudes, it has reached its highest point above the horizon on this day. It is thus the longest day and the shortest night. After the days get shorter again from this date, this day is called the "summer solstice" - a striking point in the course of time that must be duly celebrated.

The Longest Day & Night of Nights

The solstice was and is a mystical event for many people, regardless of religion and worldview. The sun has reached its highest point; this time also marks the beginning of summer and represents the richness of nature. At the end of June, it grows and blooms in the fields and gardens, the first vegetables and berries are ripe for harvesting. Nature offers man everything he needs to live. Reason enough for fertility festivals, the Celts and Germanic tribes found.

Superstitions & Fire Customs

Later, it was believed that demons would be up to mischief on this day and so corresponding defense rites were developed, all of which revolved around fire and water. Among other things, the fire customs were intended to assist the sun at its peak. Fire is said to have special protective and cleaning powers; moreover, it symbolizes light and life. However, since the sun and fire can also have a devastating effect when the earth dries out and the crops wither, water comes into play as a balance. The church, like so many other pagan customs, wanted to ban solstice celebrations. Which, as almost always, did not succeed. Therefore, she moved the feast to June 24, which is dedicated to John the Baptist. In many places, the solstice fires became St. John's fires. Since then, fire has been regarded as a sacred symbol of renewal and purification.

Magical Powers

In popular belief, however, St. John's Night is said to have magical powers, so herbs and medicinal plants are said to have a particularly strong effect and even protect against the demons of this night. For this purpose, wreaths, the "solstice wreath", were tied from medicinal herbs and placed over doors and windows. Two straw dolls, "Sunnwendhansel and Sunnwendgretel", were placed on many a funeral pyre and burned, which was also intended to ward off demons and diseases. Jumping over the fire, as it is sometimes practiced today, also served this purpose and was supposed to bring good luck and - if a couple jumps together - even an early wedding.

All of Europe celebrates

Especially in the north of Europe, where it doesn't get really dark at night, "Midsummer" is still celebrated today, mostly with boozy beach parties, also with parachute jumps and sauna visits. There is also a big celebration in the Baltic States and a whole month of festivals and concerts. And in the prehistoric cult site of Stonehenge in southern England, tens of thousands meet every year to celebrate together.

The mountain is on fire

Above all, we celebrate the custom of burning solstice fires. It is usually carried out by clubs and - the more exposed the location - is associated with great commitment. Not every hut and summit where a fire is lit is accessible by cable car or by car. In many cases, the wood is collected at the top of the mountain or even carried up to have enough material for a large fire. It is also a responsible undertaking, because the fire must be guarded and guarded accordingly so that nothing happens.

For the viewers, it is always a wonderful sight and an incredibly impressive experience to sit in the garden or on an alpine pasture and watch the fires in the rock faces all around, which do not go out until well after midnight. The date is not so specific here - most fires are lit on a weekend that suits the time. In the course of the festivities, there are still clear echoes of pre-Christian rites, such as jumping over the fire or dancing around the fire. It is obvious that there is a party at the top of the mountain as well as at the bottom, just like in Scandinavia.

Solstice bonfire in the Salzkammergut

We burn for you

In the Salzkammergut, too, the numerous solstice bonfires are becoming increasingly popular with guests from all over the world and make "the longest day of the year" an unforgettable holiday experience. The St. John's bonfires are among the most beautiful traditional events on the mountain, especially on the Zwieselalm (name of the alpine pasture) in Gosau and on the Gjaidalm (alpine hut) in Obertraun. But also on Lake Hallstatt one or the other fire is lit. Specialities and handmade live music often round off the unique fire games. Don't miss out on these fiery holiday moments and come to the solstice bonfires in the Salzkammergut. We burn for you! And speaking of distilling, one or the other schnapps will certainly find its way into many a thirsty throat on this day.

Free accommodations for the solstice bonfires in the Salzkammergut

Hotels and accommodation providers in Hallstatt, Bad Goisern, Gosau and Obertraun offer the ideal room or apartment for your holidays, no matter what your tastes. Aside from establishments rated according to the international "star" scale, you will also find around Lake Hallstatt in Austria businesses that have been awarded two to four "edelweiss". The more flowers, the greater comforts you can expect. Whether you eventually find your cozy nest in an elegant 5-star luxury hotel, at comfortable guesthouse, a family-friendly apartment, or on a traditional farm, the choice is always entirely up to you.