Finland have a whole range of unusual and wet and happy occasions to celebrate. One of them is the so-called Vappu (alternatively also in Finnish-Swedish: Vappen), with which today’s May Day is celebrated as the festival of spring . Reason enough to include this event in the collection of curious holidays from around the world and to shed some light on its history in the following passages. What is it about?
Finland’s great day for spring, workers and students
First of all, May 1st is also a public holiday in Finland, the customs and references of which are derived from several sources. While the date in its modern political meaning can be equated with the German May Day or Labor Day, its social significance extends far beyond that. But one after another.
First a brief comment on Vappu as a Finnish variant of Labor Day: Similar to Germany, there has been a downward trend in the number of participants in political events (rallies, marches, etc.) in recent years, but whether this has been the case since Responsible for the speeches given by representatives of all political parties in the 1980s, I cannot judge from a distance. You have to ask the Finns yourself. 😉
In contrast, the tradition of big parties either on the streets of the country’s big cities or in private circles is unbroken. Not unlike the German carnival, many people walk around in costumes. Traditionally, the celebrations begin on the evening of April 30th (Finnish: Vapunaatto) and then continue on the actual Vappu with numerous picnics in the parks and green spaces of the cities in order to celebrate the beginning of spring appropriately. At the same time, numerous events such as parades and concerts are held nationwide.
Another traditional feature of this spring festival: the drink Sima (originally mead, i.e. an alcoholic drink made from honey and water (today, however, more sugar and yeast than honey), which in the Finnish version is mixed with lemons and raisins) and the fried pastry Tippaleipä, which is often served in combination with donuts, sausages and potato salad. Hearty mix. 😉
Finland and its student vappu tradition
In addition to the aspects outlined above, Vappu in Finland is primarily the festival of students. Not since the beginning of this tradition, but at least this focus goes back to 1865 when Finnish students first brought the customs celebrated at Vappu back home with them from the Swedish University of Lund.
Since 1870 it has been established nationwide that Vappu is celebrated as the highest holiday for students and accordingly all Finns who have the university entrance qualification, i.e. the Abitur, wear their white Abitur hat in public on this day. Although the target group defined in this way is quite broad, strictly speaking it is primarily about the engineering students from the country’s technical universities, who have significantly shaped the local Vappu tradition.
While the majority of the partiers confined themselves to wearing the hat, current students can be recognized by their student overalls (Finnish: Haalarit), the different colors of which symbolize their respective faculty or university affiliation. Although each region or city has its own May Day customs, the following two Vappu traditions are considered to be the most famous in the country:
Helsinki: The public celebration of Vappu will open in the Finnish capital with the fact that the Havis Amanda statue in the city center on vapunaatto, i.e. April 30th, will be washed by the students at 6 p.m. and one of the aforementioned white graduation caps will be put on.
Tampere: Although Tampere also knows the previously described custom that a statue is put on a hat on April 30th, the city is primarily known for a different tradition: Because always on May 1st, the new students there are in the rapids Tammerkoski “baptized”. The Finnish word for this “baptism as an engineering student” is: Teekkarikaste.
And who is not able to do with it, for / offering on May 1 with the US Mother Goose Day (National Mother Goose Day), the day of the Batman debuts (Batman Day) or the Day of the Lei in Hawaii (Lei Day) or the International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day (International Day of the Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening ) a whole range of calendar alternatives.
In this sense: a great Vappu to all of you.