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Vappu (May Day) is a celebration that has developed from its pagan origin as a spring celebration into a nation-wide urban carnival in Finland. Worldwide, May 1st is celebrated as an international working class holiday. In Finland, vappu is based on similar working-class traditions, transforming into a spring celebration for university students and workers alike. It is also the name day of the catholic saint, Walburg. The custom is extremely popular in Finland, which also signals the closing month of the university academic year, even if the weather does not always cooperate.

Fortunately, YLE has predicted tolerable weather for the occasion; on Saturday and Sunday, most of the country can expect temperatures between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius, with the possibility that Sunday could be even warmer. However, scattered showers are also predicted.

Vappu is a raucous occasion, punctuated with sima (a type of fruity mead popular since the 18th century in Finland), munkki (doughnuts), tippaleipä (funnel cakes), haalarit (student overalls), and ylioppilaslakki (the hat that is awarded after finishing upper-secondary school). Celebrations begin on vappuaatto (Vappu eve), when Havis Amanda (aka Manta) is washed, and then donned with an oversized ylioppilaslakki at 6pm. The statue, representing a mermaid-like figure of a young maiden sculpted by the artist Ville Vallgren in 1908, is regarded as a symbol of Helsinki, “The Daughter of the Baltic Sea”.

The celebration is also cause for wild hair colouring, wearing outrageous outfits, and a general feeling of exuberance. Colourful balloons, pompoms, party-poppers, serpentine throws and sprays, and horns of various kinds are also seen on the day. Naturally, alcohol consumption is large component of the celebrations, particularly sima and skumppa (sparkling wine). Vappu lunches/picnics are also a popular way to celebrate on the day and Kaivopuisto is filled with people on the 1st of May enjoying the festive spirit.

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[…] I found myself missing Oulu as I was walking around Kaivopuisto in Helsinki. I missed a kind of Vappu in […]

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