Vappu dates back to the 1700s when upper-class families would go horseback riding and enjoy the freshly emerged greenery together with friends. The event was born out of the Catholic celebrations of Walpurgis Night.
But if you’ve lived in Finland for quite some time now, you’d know that celebrating May 1 isn’t just a simple labor day holiday anymore. For most people, gone are the days of remembering its origin and honoring workers. The celebration starts the day before and yes, with people anticipating the long-awaited sun to party outdoors, it can get pretty crazy.
So here are a few tips to survive this boisterous celebration and get the fun started.
1. Wear a funny hat and maybe some outrageous outfits.. You’ve probably seen and wondered why everyone is walking around with a white hat on. That’s the traditional Finnish highschool graduation cap, and in case you don’t have it, funny hats are also welcome to wear- those sparkling and colorful wigs for example, or maybe just some beers around your head.
2. Try sima, munkki, tippaleipä and other Vappu treats. It’s not complete if you just have the regular snacks trust me. Grab some from the supermarkets or make them at home. You can read more about these delicious treats here.
3. Be ready for all kinds of weather. You’ve probably heard about the joke of 4 seasons in a day in Finland. Well, that’s true. So even though Vappu is a celebration of springtime, you’d be surprised how it can also snow at times. So while wishing for a warm weather is nice, it doesn't hurt to be prepared for rain, hail, snow, you name it.
4. Watch the traditional starter of Vappu celebrations- when the students put a cap on a statue’s head. The most famous statue is in Helsinki market square called Havis Amanda, or Manta. It’s a female naked statue and on Vappu, gets to wear a hat, like everybody else. The other big cities have their own statues as well.
5. Have a Vappu-picnic with your family and friends. Bring everybody out, sit on a blanket and share food and bubbly drinks with everybody. Boost up your festive look, enjoy the lovely Finnish spring and experience the Vappu magic right there. If you’re clueless where to go, head out to these parks.
6. Know the opening hours and public transport. Public service offices, banks, post offices, some liquor stores and most shops will close early the day before. Supermarkets are open, but with exceptional hours. Public transport will operate normally and additional services may be provided later in the evening. The 1st of May is a full holiday and you should be aware that the country functions differently on this day.
7. Talk to people and make new friends. Okay, so Finns are known to be quiet, and for a lack of a better term, they prefer solitude. But not this day. They are extremely friendly on Vappu, so you won’t have any difficulties joining a bunch of locals. There are also foreigners so just walk around walk around with a crate of beer and be ready to share.
8. Take care of all your belongings. We all know Finland is relatively safe, and chances of someone pickpocketing you is lesser compared to most countries. But with a crazy crowd during that day, losing something is like looking for a needle in a haystack.
9. Keep your kids close. Or better yet, let them wear some ID bracelets or nametags so just in case they get lost, someone can contact you.
10. Lastly, enjoy the festive spirit! Eat well, dance, drink, be a little bit crazy, and have fun!
Have a happy Vappu to all!