How to Celebrate Vappu in Helsinki Like a Finn; The 2023 Edition
The culmination of the early ‘vappu’ eve is the crowning of Havis Amanda. Photograph and video: TONY ÖHBERG/FINLAND TODAY
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 happens on Saturday, vappuaattona, on April 30 and vappuna, on May 1. Both days 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 vapputanssit (the dance). Several Helsinki areas have a long-standing tradition, for example, Vallila, where the free partner dance event in a park will return after a three-year hiatus in the spirit of tango!
It’s recommended that you find yourself a funny hat or create one out of a newspaper, get a balloon — and take it to the street! Amazing things happen when you 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; cheerful Finns are taking over the streets!
Champagne, prosecco – a bubbly of any kind is a major part of the ‘vappu’ celebrations. Photograph: TONY ÖHBERG/FINLAND TODAY
The traditional highlight of the spring celebration is the washing and capping of Havis Amanda (Mantan lakitus) on April 30, at 18:00 at the central Market Square. Students (this year Aalto University Student Union (AYY) ) will crown the 20th-century sculpture with the student’s cap.
After this year’s crowning, the statue will be removed for renovations for a currently unknown period.
The event is a huge crowd-puller. It is estimated, that this year about 50,000 people are going to observe the ceremony. Needless to say, you are advised to arrive early to catch a glimpse of all the action.
Afterward, the sunny forecast is likely to attract many to the outdoor terraces downtown.
After the sun sets, favorite venues for vappu parties include Korjaamo, Kaivohuone and Tavastia. And pretty much any other venue, bar and restaurant in Helsinki area you can think of.
Typically students prefer to swim in their overalls. Photograph: TONY ÖHBERG/FINLAND TODAY
Traditional vappupiknik on Sunday 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. (The recent forecast includes occasional showers but temperatures around 10 degrees Celsius.).
The most popular picnic happens at Kaivopuisto, spreading all the way up to Ullanlinnanmäki. Some people even bring portable grills and begin the outdoor season with grilled tofu, sausage and vegetables.
Besides the usual stuff, 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.