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It's only at night (under the influence of hideously expensive alcohol) that inhibitions fly free and all hell breaks loose. A raucous Northern European celebration, the night has spawned legendary tales of magic and mayhem.To me this view has a fundamental flaw: it ignores obvious cause and effect. Blame the confusion over its exact date on the puritanical leanings of the early Christian church, who decided that it was terribly important to celebrate the birthday of John the Baptist (St Johannes, or Hans, to the Scandis), which fell – oh, what a coincidence!Never let a national stereotype stand in the way of rigorous observation.

Down in Sørlandet, the Norwegian south coast, Grimstad is a pretty seaside village of small white houses and rose-filled gardens, whose greatest claim to fame is that Ibsen once worked in its pharmacy.

On that day, Danes sing their traditional "We Love Our Land" and burn straw witches on bonfires.

This is done in Denmark in memory of the Church's witch burnings of the 16th and 17th century.

Swedes then dance around the decorated midsummer pole while listening to traditional folk songs known to all.

In Sweden, as in many other countries, the magic of Midsummer includes bonfires (which reminds of Swedish Walpurgis Night traditions), and divining the future, especially the identity of one's future spouse.

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