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Vappu celebrations at the Market Square in Helsinki in 2015. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

By Georgie Gaskin and Tony Öhberg

Every time we ask a Finn about vappu, we notice their eyes light up and they start to jump around a little. So, what’s making the Finns so excited? What is this holiday and flag day all about?

Vappu, also known as May Day, is celebrated all over the world with its origins as far back as 870. What started as a pagan celebration morphed into “welcome to spring” in the 1700’s. During the industrial revolution in the 1800’s, the celebration once again changed, associating itself with students and workers. Vappu has been officially recognized in Finland since 1890, and a national holiday since 1944.

This celebration is somewhat of a “coming out of hibernation” party in Finland and the whole county is invited. The day is still associated with the students and workers, who annually don their sailor type student hats for the festivities, but it is also a family event.

IN PICTURES: The Vappu Celebrations Kick Off in Helsinki

What to expect?

In Helsinki, students head to the Havis Amanda statue in Market Square on the evening of April 30. This is where the celebration begins with the annual ritual of washing the statue and placing a student hat on her head (washing begins at 17:00, the crowning at 18:00). Except large crowds, as the crowning is known to gather tens of thousands of people. The parties continue all night, and on May 1 it is customary to enjoy a picnic in the park at Ullanlinna or Kaisaniemi.

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The May Day weekend features a variety of things to do. For example, Linnanmäki amusement park opens its season. The City bikes are introduced on May Day from 10:00 to 14:00 in Kaivopuisto. In the Kumpula botanical gardens there is an event for children, Vappushokkelo 2017.

The weather?


According to the latest forecast, Saturday is windy and rainy in the whole country. On Saturday night, there is going to be flurries of snow in the south, from where the snow clouds will move further north to the middle and northern parts of the country.

On Sunday, there will be moments when it will not rain in the south. The weather will become sunnier when the crowning ceremony of Havis Amanda begins. Overall, the weather is in the south windy, cloudy and chilly. Expect temperatures of about five to six degrees Celsius.

On Monday, May 1, the weather will turn sunny and the temperature will climb over 10 degrees in the south. In the middle and northern parts of the country the May Day is likely to be cloudy.

What’s closed on May 1?

Banks are closed.

Alkos are closed.

Post offices are closed.

What’s open?

Many grocery stores are open on May 1.

Transport services

On Sunday, April 30 and May Day, May 1, a Sunday service will operate on all HSL routes. There will be plenty of additional bus, Metro and commuter train services on both days. Tram routes will be diverted in downtown Helsinki on May Eve evening. Tram routes running via the Market Square will be diverted from about 16:00 on April 30 due to May Eve celebrations around the statue of Havis Amanda.

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Social and health care services

24 h Telephone Health Service, Tel. 09 310 10023. Information is provided about Helsinki’s health services and treatment instructions 24 hours a day at the cost of a normal phone call.

In life-threatening emergencies – call 112

Health Stations are closed on Sunday, April 30 and Monday, May 1. Health stations are open Mon – Fri 8:00 – 16:00.

Emergency services

When local health stations are closed, patients in need of urgent care are treated by emergency services.

– Adults (over 16 years of age): Haartman Hospital and Emergency Room, Haartmaninkatu 4, building 12, tel. 09 310 63231 and Malmi Hospital and Emergency Room, Talvelantie 6 J, tel. 09 310 67204.- Children: Children’s Hospital Emergency Clinic, Stenbäckinkatu 11, tel. 09 87 10023.

When local health stations are closed, residents of Helsinki with serious illnesses and in urgent need for care can also go to the Jorvi Hospital emergency room in Espoo, Turuntie 150, tel. 09 4711. Residents of Helsinki can also go the Peijas Hospital emergency room in Vantaa, Sairaalakatu 1, Vantaa, tel. 09 471 67060.

Emergency dental care is provided on Sunday, April 30 and on Monday 1st of May 9 – 21 at Haartman Hospital, Haartmaninkatu 4, building 12. Appointments can be booked 8 – 21 at 09 310 49999. Night emergency duty is at Tölö hospital emergency department, Töölönkatu 40, tel. 09 471 87708. Please always make an appointment by phone before seeking treatment for Emergency Dental Care.

Emergency Social Services and Crisis emergency support serve 24/7 also during May 1. Emergency Social Services tel. 020 696 006 and Crisis emergency support tel. 09 310 44222.

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The city’s sports facilities have exceptional opening hours on May Day Eve and on May Day.

Libraries are closed on May Day Eve April 30 and on May 1.

Remember to enjoy!

There is an excitement around this holiday as it brings with it the introduction of warmer weather with the much-loved summer drawing closer. So be sure head to the park, taste some mead (sima) (traditional Finnish Mayday drink) and some Mayday fritters (tippaleivät). Oh, and don’t forget the donuts!

You too can celebrate surviving the winter.