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Vappu: one of the largest festivals in Finland

Vappu: one of the largest festivals in Finland

On 1 May, Finns mark the arrival of spring with a carnival-like festival

All around the world, people gather to celebrate the working class and the labour movement on 1 May, Labour Day. Although Finland marks this occasion too, its festivities are very different as it also celebrates the end of winter and the beginning of spring.

1 May is known as May Day in English, Vappu in Finnish and Valborg in Swedish. The origins of this national holiday date back to pagan times as it is named after the 8th century Saint Walpurgis. With time, May Day transformed into a nation-wide carnival-like celebration that is now one of the biggest, most-important festivals of the year.

Traditions and customs

It must be noted that celebrations for May Day begin on 30 April when students and graduates gather at the Market Square in Helsinki. There, they wash the statue of Havis Amanda and use a crane to place a white, secondary-school graduation cap on its head.

It must be noted that these caps play an important role in the May Day celebrations as people of all ages wear white hats. Taking this further, on 1 May, all Finns leave their homes wearing their spring clothes and caps to gather in the streets and parks, walk around the city, and eventually sit down to have a picnic.

On this day, people typically drink alcoholic beverages such as champagne and mead (sima). In addition to this, they eat funnel cake (tippaleipä) and Finnish doughnuts (munkki), among other traditional foods.

During these joyous celebrations, the city is colourfully decorated and balloons are sold in various places. Due to the overall party-like atmosphere, the sparkling beverages, and the carnival-like decorations that are seen all over the city, the May Day festivities have often been compared to those of New Year’s Eve.

Unfortunately, the COVID outbreak has made it difficult to celebrate this beautiful day in the same way. Like last year, the festivities will not be permitted outdoors this year.

However, the occasion will undoubtedly still be marked with mead and pastries indoors. In any case, whether outdoors or at home with loved ones, May Day is always celebrated in a joyous way.

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