Valborg – and the 1st of May traditions

Valborg – or more familiarly – “vappen”

The evening of he last day of April Finland wakes up to an an every year festivity – and to the Spring. Students have their parties, preceded by an old tradition at 6 pm where both students and certain selected statues again get to use their traditional, white student caps. Thus the pilgrimage of the students in and around Helsingfors/Helsinki head towards the Havis Amanda,  a nude female statue near the Salutorget. Amanda gets her cap and during this event the students perhaps their first glass of something bubbly. After the capping events everybody head to their own parties most of them wearing the traditional cap.

Students in other cities have similar local ceremonies. In Åbo students gather at theVårdberget in Åbo for their yearly dose of choir music traditionally presented by the Brahe Djäknar choir – the concert can of course be seen over national TV for those who cannot attend.

On May 1st the festivities more resemble a carnival and typically centres on copious consumption of meed (mjöd), sparkling wine and often also other alcoholic beverages. The tradition is to drink mjöd, a home-made low-alcohol mead, along with freshly cooked funnel cakes ie. “struvor“. As you see – no melancholy here anymore – the Winter and the darkness is passé.

In the early morning people gather to the Kajsaniemi park (or the Ullanlinnanmäki) for an early picnic to listen to the traditional student choir and the brassband performances.

For most, the picnic is enjoyed with friends on a blanket with good food and sparkling wine. Some people, however, arrange extremely lavish picnics with pavilions, white tablecloths, silvercandelabras, classical music and extravagant food. The picnic usually starts early in the morning, where some of the previous night’s party-goers continue their celebrations undaunted by lack of sleep. (Wikipedia)

If you had problem getting out of bed in time you were able to listen to the choirs over the radio…

The historical background

The current festival is  named after the English missionary Saint Walpurga (born ca. 710). As Walburga was canonized on 1st of May (ca. 870), she became associated with May Day, especially in the Finnish and Swedish calendars. The eve of May day, traditionally celebrated with dancing, came to be known as Walpurgisnacht (“Walpurga’s night”, “Valborgsmässoafton“)

The end…

Since Vappen mostly takes place during weekdays everybody has to prepare for the following morning – and work. The student cap gets stuffed away in the cupboard, ready to be used same time next year.

Sources: Wikipedia

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