May 1st is Vappu Day in Finland!
Of course, they start celebrating the day before 🙂
According to the site Open Holidays, “The Finnish name ‘Vappu’ originates from an 8th-century German saint called Walpurgis, who was canonised on May 1st 870 AD.”
I’ve read it has roots in paganism, upper class families, and later became a celebration of workers, like Labor Day.
Green Cap Tours also shares the tradition of capping Havis Amanda, a statue in Helsinki. “When Havis Amanda was set up for display in Helsinki’s Market Square in 1908, it immediately caused a stir and became a source of public controversy, due to its nudity. However, since then it has become one of Helsinki’s most loved public statues, and a symbol of Helsinki Maritime city.
“Every May Day eve Havis Amanda becomes the center of attention. During The Manta Student Cap Ceremony, a graduation cap is placed on her head. It is claimed that Havis Amanda was already given a cap in 1909. This was done illegally and most likely, spontaneously.”
If you’re curious about making some of the food, check out this post from Big in Finland, which has instructions for sima (an alcoholic beverage), tippaleipä (fried dough with powdered sugar), and Munkkis (doughnuts).
Big in Finland also shared this post explaining that Vappu has a large focus on students and faculty: “Each faculty has different overall colors. For instance, in Joensuu, the Science Park people – with whom I proudly tagged along – were dressed in purple. Others were yellow, green, etc., making it easy to discover fellow people. The overalls have brands on them, mostly local, from companies who subsidize their costs to the students.”
My grandmother’s family was from Finland, and as I am exploring more about Finnish folklore as inspiration for my novel When Wolves Sing with Swans, it’s so fun to learn more about the language and culture.
Check out this quick YouTube video, too: In Finland We Have This Thing Called