In a nutshell, here are the ingredients of a Finnish vappu:
Crazy costumes, balloons, confetti, glitter, paper streamers, noise, music and dance, processions . . . the entire city center turned into a party area.
Traditionally, the welcoming of spring on vappuaattona April 30 and vappuna May 1 are holidays that Finnish workers, as well as students, celebrate in a carnival fashion.
Even those who have to work on holidays usually take the advantage of dressing in a costume.
Here are some tips to blend in.
You should find out whether your local community organizes an open-air vappu party with live music and dance, vappu-breakfast or -brunch combined with vapputanssi (the dance). In several Helsinki areas, those have a long-standing tradition, for example in Vallila or at Hakaniemi Square.
Find yourself a funny hat or create one out of a newspaper, get a balloon and take to the street. Greet strangers with “Hyvää vappua! (Happy May Day!),“ and maybe you get invited to a picnic or at least a glass of sima (a type of fruity mead). Enjoy the exuberance of this day; you will hardly ever see so many cheerful Finns in the street!
The traditional highlight of the spring celebration is the capping of Havis Amanda (Mantan lakitus) on April 30, at 18:00 at the central Market Square (Kauppatori). Students are giving the Havis Amanda statue a bubble bath and a student’s cap. As there is always a huge crowd, you are advised to arrive earlier just to catch a glimpse of all that action.
In case the weather allows, many outdoor terraces in the center will be filled with party people.
Favorite venues for big vappu parties include Korjaamo, Vanha Ylioppilastalo, Kaivohuone, Fennia Salonki and Tavastia. And pretty much any other venue, bar and restaurant in Helsinki area you can think of.
Traditional vappupiknik is another huge crowd-puller.
Every speck of green in the center will be used as a picnic spot on both days, no matter the weather.
But the most popular picnic happens on May 1 at Kaivopuisto, spreading all the way up to Ullanlinnanmäki. Some people even bring portable grills and begin the outdoor season with a proper meal for the whole family.
Besides the usual sausages and potato salad, for many Finns, a hot “hernekeitto“ (pea soup) belongs to the vappu tradition.
Other traditional and typical vappu delicacies are funnel cakes (tippaleipä), donuts (munkki) and mead (sima or vappusima), or any other kind of sparkling drink, alcoholic or not.