Biikebrennen

All of North Frisia is on fire, so to speak, when the biike fires burn along the coast and on the larger and smaller islands. Every year the spirits of winter are chased off with the burning beacons and hot punch on 21 February, followed up by a hearty kale meal in cosy restaurants.

‘Biikebrennen’ is one of the oldest North Frisian customs. The biike (Sylt Frisian dialect for “beacon”) goes back to heathen times: it is said that the sacrificial fires were lit to placate the god Wodan as long as 2000 years ago. In later times, the biike fires were on the larger islands and the smaller Hallig islands to bid farewell to departing whalers. The women who remained behind kindled the fires along the beach to provide their seafaring men with a supporting beacon for as long as possible.

Nowadays the fires are accompanied by various customs in the individual towns and villages. Sometimes straw dummies are burned, for instance, or the celebrations are extended to 22 February in places such as Sylt.