White Night


White night, midnight sun, polar day

***** Location: Polar Circles
***** Season: Mid-Summer
***** Category: Heavens


© Photo by Isabelle Prondzynski, 2005

White night is a night on which it never gets completely dark, because the sun does not descend sufficiently far below the horizon. This phenomenon is observed at sufficiently high latitudes in summer.

At latitudes starting from about the polar circle (also slightly below, due to refraction), instead of twilight the sun may be visible all night, which is referred to as midnight sun.

White nights have become a common symbol of Saint Petersburg, Russia, where the last 10 days of June are celebrated with cultural events. Scandinavia, where this effect can also be observed, is also known as The Land of the Midnight Sun.


Read about midnight sun.

Worldwide use


hakuya, byakuya 白夜
It is not experienced in Japan itself, but some haiku poets use it now when they are on a trip to areas, where they can see it.

***** . geshi byakuya 夏至白夜(げしびゃくや)
white night of the summer solstice
kigo for mid-summer

Gabi Greve



White Night in St. Petersburg

Technically speaking the so-called "White Nights" are not unique to St. Petersburg, but only here have the northern nights received such a poetic acclaim. What could be more romantic than walking along rivers and canals when night is as bright as early evening? It is the world's only metropolis where such a phenomenon takes place every summer. Every year there are days when the downtown St. Petersburg is full of people, even at night. It is a great time for those in love and ... for High School graduates who usually get their diplomas about June 21-22.

From late May to early July nights are bright in St. Petersburg, but the real White Nights normally last from June 11 to July 2. The nature of the White Nights (Beliye Nochi) can be explained by the geographical location of St. Petersburg. It is the world's most northern city with a population over 1 million. St. Petersburg is located at 59 degrees 57' North (roughly on the same latitude as Oslo, Norway, the southern tip of Greenland and Seward, Alaska).

Due to such a high latitude the sun does not go under the horizon deep enough for the sky to get dark. The dusk meets the dawn and it is so bright that in summer they do not turn street lighting on. If the weather is cloudy you might not see any White Night, though on a clear day you can get a feel for a White Night even in mid-July.
Bonne chance!


.. .. ..

The Mariinsky Theatre

Along with the long-awaited coming of summer to our city we are once again hosting the Stars of the White Nights festival, now in its thirteenth year. Since the time of its inception it has exerted a magnetic appeal, drawing lovers of Russian culture from all over the world to St Petersburg, each year presenting a unique programme of ballets, operas and symphony music.

The 2005 festival opens to a premiere of Richard Wagner´s opera Tristan und Isolde, which is making its return to the theatre´s repertoire almost one hundred years after the legendary production by Vsevolod Meierhold. The new production is by the young but already acclaimed Dmitry Chernyakov.

One of the distinguishing features of this year´s festival programme is the series of concerts and performances by musical ensembles and theatre companies from countries on the Baltic Sea. The opera programme includes all the premieres of the current season, performances by stars of the Mariinsky Opera Company Olga Borodina, Anna Netrebko and Vladimir Galuzin as well as world-renowned bass René Pape in Wagner´s Parsifal, the Finnish National Opera (Rasputin with Matti Salminen in the main role) and the Norwegian Opera (Peer Gynt) in addition to chamber programmes with soloists from the Mariinsky Academy of Young Singers.


Things found on the way



it burns my body -
this pirates liquor
in a white night


冬男, Fuyu Otoko, Ashita no Kai

(Tr. Gabi Greve)


midsummer night
sun rises
where it sets

That was a simple observation from the deck. The sun went down to the horizon, and then up again from (almost) the same place (we were still south of the Arctic Circle...), and the sky never lost its light where the sun was.

white night --
board games and red wine
till our eyes close

The white nights occurred when the sky remained cloudy, and we could not see the sun setting. Thus, the remaining daylight was more generally present, not pin-pointed in a particular area of the sky.

© Haiku and Photo, Isabelle Prondzynski,
from a trip to Norway in 2005


white night
on the budding oak
puffs of snow

copyright 3/15/1999 by Wendy C. Bialek


white night -
I draw the curtains
on a daylight moon

a white night --
salmon bones curled
against a log

Cindy Zackowitz, Alaska, 1999


white night --
moon is swimming out
of the stone lion's jaws

summer midnight --
the polar sun clings
to the pine tips

Salehard summer --
the opaque-white night drips
with mosquitoes

polar midnight --
salmonberry gleaming
on the swamp hillock

Olga Hooper
From the city of Salehard, on the Polar Circle

Here are two more photos of Salehard:

(Salehard, the bank of the river Poluy)

(stella "The Polar Circle", reared right at the 66°33' parallel)


white nights
severity of northern rocks
hidden in a stone

Gennady Nov
Joys of Japan, February 2012


Related words

***** Polar night : Kigo for Winter

The opposite phenomenon of white night,
polar night, is observed in winter when the sun is sufficiently below the horizon, so that there is insufficient sunlight or no light at all. (A lingering dusk may occur, if the sun is only 12 degrees or less below the horizon.)


.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Siberian series
by Olga Hooper

Aurora Borealis
over the poor village
the splendor of lights

Polar night --
thick vapor encircles
children's laughter

New Year's cold --
again my son brings home
a stray kitten

Siberian frost --
vapor from thawed out soil
under the bitch's belly

Polar night --
sparkle of precious stones
in a tundra sky

So called "northen lights", or "Aurora Borealis" is what I try to describe in the 'Polar night' haiku. It's a magnificent show in the dark night sky over Salechard which I had the chance to witness a few times. It was a rare thing in the place where I lived, and is difficult to compare to anything else ... So, I tried to describe it as 'precious stones sparkling in the sky'.



Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)
Arctic Fox's tail. 気象北極光. Nordlicht

kigo for spring

CLICK For more photos

For reasons not fully understood by scientists, the weeks around the vernal equinox are prone to Northern Lights.
In other words, spring is aurora season. Observations from NASA spacecraft are shedding new light on this old mystery.
Canadians walking their dogs after dinner, Scandinavians popping out to the sauna, Alaskan Huskies on the Iditarod trail—all they have to do is look up and behold, green curtains of light dancing across the night sky. Spring has arrived!
source : NASA science news, 2008


***** . geshi byakuya 夏至白夜(げしびゃくや)
white night of the summer solstice





Anonymous said...

Under "things found on the way", one could include the "white nights" in Italy and France -- nights in the autumn, when cities stay awake all night and offer entertainment, museum events, music, street festivals, all-night eating and drinking, etc. In Rome, this happens on 17 September this year :


Anonymous said...

white night
outside the winter palace
gypsy children begging

summer in Moscow
such delicate fingers
picking your pocket

Billie Dee


Anonymous said...

Helsinki, June 2008

white night --
a drunk vagabond
drifts into church

Even the church stayed open well into the night!

Isabelle Prondzynski