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Vappu marks the beginning of summer - Embassy of Finland, Athens : Current Affairs


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News, 4/25/2012

Vappu marks the beginning of summer

In Finland, Vappu is one of the biggest carnival-style festivals held in the streets of towns and cities. The celebration begins on the evening of 30 April and continues to 1 May.  The Embassy will be closed on 1st May.

The City of Helsinki Media Bank/Seppo LaaksoThe City of Helsinki Media Bank/Seppo Laakso

The Finnish name for May Day, "Vappu", originates from Catholic St. Walpurgis, who's commemoration day was celebrated on the 1st of May. The first May Day festivities in Finland started in parsonages and upper-class families in the 1700's. At that time people celebrated the day by going horse riding enjoying the greenery of spring, and held "Mead" parties at home together with friends and family.

The Finnish May Day celebration, as it is nowadays, was started by secondary school graduates in the 1800's. Even back then the festival was a time of rejoicing and very "Damp" students. Student caps might have been worn from 1st of May until the end of September, but nowadays students and past students wear it on the eve of May Day and on the actual day.

the City of Helsinki Media Bank/Paul WilliamsThe City of Helsinki Media Bank/Paul Williams

In Finland May Day celebrations begin on May Day Eve. In Helsinki the statue "Havis Amanda", which lies near to the Helsinki market square, receives her white student's cap at six o'clock, at the same time as people put their caps on. This has been a tradition since 1932. Similar ceremonies take place in cities all around Finland, with different statues being "capped".

The celebrations have begun and soon a carnival like atmosphere spreads among the  Finns, who enthusiastically chat and raise their Σparkling wine glasses together with persons they have never met before. May Day markets are full of knick-knacks, serpentines, flowers, whistles, May Day whisks, balloons and masks for children and childlike adults. 

The City of Helsinki Media Bank/Seppo LaaksoThe City of Helsinki Media Bank/Seppo Laakso

The next day people head for parks to have picnics together with friends and family and brunches served in restaurants are also popular meeting points. Traditional May Day delicacies are fritters called "tippaleipä" and they are served together with homemade mead, "sima". Some student organizations reserve even areas where they traditionally camp every year. The picnic usually starts early in the morning, where some of the previous night's party-goers continue their celebrations undaunted by lack of sleep.

May Day is internationally known as a "Workers Day". " In Finland "May Day" became an official flag- raising day in 1978, and was named "The Day of Finnish Work". On May Day there are marches by all the parties and politicians and union leaders are making speeches.


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Updated 4/30/2012

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