30.04.2005 | 15:55

Happy 1st of May

This weekend we celebrate vappu in Finland. The actual vappu day is May 1st, but the carneval starts already on the eve, April 30th - today. Vappu is actually celebrated for three reasons: it's the beginning of summer and the day for workers and students.

Vappu (that's seldomly called also valpuri) got its name from St. Walburga, an English nun who helped her brothers to convert the Germans to christianity in the 800th century. The cult of St. Walburga got mixed with the old Viking fertility rites celebrated also in April and old German celebration of the coming of the spring.

Workers started to celebrate vappu as the unions in the USA demanded an 8-hour working day starting from May 1st, 1886 and after a strike the demands were met. In the socialist countries May 1st slowly became the day of celebrating the workers' achievements. (However, in the US the Labour Day is September 1st.)

Students started celebrating vappu also in the 19th century. The habit of wearing the student's cap (the black and white hat you get when you graduate from lukio, or high school) spread to Finland in the late 1800's from Sweden, and it was customary to change from the winter cap to the summer cap on April 30th. (The winter version does not exist anymore.)

So, you can see balloons, streamers, funny masks and hats all around. You can see people having fun, going out on a picnic (if the weather is OK), eating doughnuts, May-Day fritters and drinking mead and sparkling wine or champagne.

I guess I could talk more about vappu, but I'm too busy celebrating it with coughing and sneezing... I got the flu.

Happy May Day to you all!

PS. The Ice Hockey World Championships start also today. Hooray for Finland!

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