Celebrating Vappu in Finland
What is Vappu?
Labor day is celebrated as an important festivity in most countries around the world. In Finland, it is known as Vappu (Valborg in Swedish, second official language in Finland) and considered as one of the biggest celebrations of the year next to Christmas and Easter holidays.
Traditionally, it's for celebrating spring that calls for a party for workers and students. It's like a big carnival festivity that starts in the afternoon the day before and continues whole day of May 1. Streets are full of colorful balloons and paper streamers, funny hats, colorful wigs and all sorts of other party decorations and equipment. The parks are also full of people having picnic, usually wearing the white hats that were given during their secondary-school graduation party.
University students mark their calendars early on, as they consider this as the biggest party of the year. Some would start their parties a few weeks earlier, known as pääpäivä. Although the main Vappu celebration has the same program all around the country, universities could organize different ways of celebrating the event. Every university faculty has its own color of clothing and students would also wear white caps similar to sailor hats. The hat symbolizes the memories as a student in high school so it is usually kept well and used only once a year, which is on Vappu. Some people also use funny hats and wear outrageous costumes.
Walpurgis Night, or Vappu Eve, is the main celebration that starts on the 30th of April mainly by students who gather together. In Helsinki, the gathering of students happens at the Market Square around 6 pm. They go there and wash the Havis Amanda or Manta, a nude female statue and put a big white hat on her head. This tradition happens in cities around Finland with different statues. The party continues with drinking champagne and staying up all night.
In the morning of May 1st, people go to the parks to have picnic and for some, to rest after a sleepless night. Most people would recharge by drinking a sparkling wine called skumppa. Everyone brings food and drinks and shares happily with others. A good sunny weather would be perfect, but it could sometimes still be cold so people would still bring jackets, raincoats or scarves.
Parks are usually full of people, but the most famous ones in Helsinki are at Ullanlinna and Kaivopuisto parks. Aside from picnics, people also enjoy music from some bands performing in various events as well as parades.
To get more information on different activities of Vappu, you can visit the tourism office, go to their website, or get the information from the Student Union. It is also useful to know about the opening and closing hours of public services and transport during Vappu festivities: Vappu Eve and Vappu day. Usually most offices like banks and post offices have shorter opening times on April 30th and are closed on May 1. Public transport operates normally during the day and closes late on Vappu Eve, with extra services available as well.