Happy May Day from Sweden!
We are officially celebrating the first day of summer with a four-day-weekend, and the celebration of Walburgis Night, First of May, and Labor Day/ worker’s day. But all you really have to know, it’s a Holiday, and there is a big party, and summer is here.
May Day has several meanings in different European cultures, but it has been celebrated since pre-Christian times and Roman times. The celebration has always had something to do with welcoming summer and the eve of May Day often included dancing and bonfires. The eve of May Day has been called Walburgis Night since 870 and was named after the English missionary Saint Walpurga, Walburga was canonized on 1st of May (ca. 870). Walpurgis Night is exactly six months from All Hallows’ Eve, Halloween, and one of the rituals was to burn witches in bonfires. Walburgis Night is still celebrated with bonfires in many European cultures, but the symbolic is more often referring to burning the rag from the winter and celebrating the beginning of summer, and for example here in Sweden it’s often also called just as “sista april”, last of April, but you hear many using Valborg as well.
Typically the May Day or Valborg (in Swedish), Vappu (in Finnish), Vappen (in Finnish-Swedish), or whatever you call it, is a big drink fest, especially for students wearing their white graduation hats, and always involving champagne. Whether it’s drinking champagne and crowning statues with student graduation hats in Finland or having a champagne races in Sweden, where champagne is sprayed in such quantities that some cities cover historic buildings with plastic. While I have many fond memories of these parties when I was a college student in Finland (no wait, I don’t remember much…), May Day is fun for families as well. It’s filled with outdoor festivals, and more importantly, it’s a day off school to play outside. We celebrated Walburgis Night at home by kicking off the BBQ season. Later on when it got dark we watched the bonfire cross the river. I snapped the picture above from our back terrace – and we came back inside to spend time with the family. Maybe next year we will do something more exiting, but now we’ve had so much excitement this spring, that having a family night at home is a special treat we want to savor as often as we can.