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Walpurgis Night

Walpurgis Night (Valborgsmässoafton in Swedish, Vappu in Finnish, Walpurgisnacht in German) is a holiday celebrated on April 30, in Finland, Sweden and Germany.

Table of contents

Finland and Sweden

History

It is named after a woman called "Valborg" (alternative spellings are "Walpurgis", "Wealdburg", or "Valderburger") born in 710 somewhere Dorset / Wessex as a niece of Saint Boniface. Together with her brothers she later travelled to Württemberg, Germany where she became a nun and lived in the convent of Heidenheim, which was founded by her brother Wunibald. Valborg died on February 25, 779 and that day still carries her name in the Catholic calendar[?]. However she wasn't made a saint until May 1 in the same year, and that day carries her name in the Swedish calendar.

Viking fertility celebrations took place around April 30 and due to Valborg being declared a saint at that time of year, her name became associated with the celebrations. Valborg was worshipped in the same way that Vikings had celebrated spring and as they spread through out Europe the two dates became mixed together and created the Valborg celebration.

Celebrations

Walpurgis is one of the main holidays during the year in both Sweden and Finland, alongside of Christmas and Midsummer. The forms of celebration in Sweden vary in different parts of the country and between different cities. One of the main traditions in Sweden is to light large bonfires, a custom which is most firmly established in Svealand, and which began in Uppland during the 18th century. An older tradition from Southern Sweden was for the younger people to collect greens and branches from the woods at twilight, which were used to adorn the houses of the village. The expected reward for this task to be paid in eggs.

The tradition which is most spread throughout the country is probably singing songs of spring. Most of the songs are from the 19th century and were spread by the students' spring festivities. The strongest and most traditional spring festivities are also found in the old university cities, like Uppsala and Lund where both current and graduated students gather at events that take up most of the day from early morning to late night on April 30. There are also newer student traditions like the carnival parade, the "Cortège", which has been held since 1910 by the students at Chalmers in Gothenburg.

In Finland the student traditions are also one of the main characteristics of "Vappu". From the end of the 19th century, "Fin de Siècle", and onwards, this traditional upper class feast has been co-opted by students attending university, already having received their student-cap. Fixtures include the capping of the Havis Amanda[?], a nude female statue in Helsinki, and the biannually alternating publications of ribald matter called [[*py]] and Julkku[?]. Both are sophomoric; but while Julkku is a standard magazine, *py is always a gimmick. Classic forms have included an *py printed on a toilet-roll[?] and a bedsheet[?]. Often the magazine has been stuffed inside standard industrial packages such as sardine-cans and milk cartons.

The Finnish tradition is also a shadowing of the Soviet Era May Day parade. Starting with the parties of the left, the whole of the Finnish political scene has nominated Vappu as the day to go out on stumps and agitate. This does not only include right-wing parties, but also others like the church have followed suit, marching and making speeches. In Sweden it is only the labour and socialist parties which use May 1 for political activities, while others observe the traditional festivities.

King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden was born on April 30, 1946 and also celebrates his birthday on the same day.

Germany

In Germany, Walpurgisnacht, the night from 30 April to 1 May, is the night when allegedly the witches on the Blocksberg[?] hold a large celebration and wait on the arrival of the devil.

Historically the Walpurgisnacht is derived from pagan spring customs, where the arrival of spring was celebrated with bonfires at night. With the Christianization of Germany these old customs were condemned as heathen.

In recent years Walpurgisnacht has been the prelude to the May 1 riots in Berlin.

See also: Holidays in Sweden, Flag days in Sweden, Namesdays in Sweden, Namesdays in Finland



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