Traditions are strong in Sweden. Walpurgis is the only official Swedish holiday not connected directly with a church holiday. When the church is referred to in Sweden, they are referring to the Lutheran church. Until just over a decade ago, the Lutheran church was the state church. No other churches were recognized officially. Many Swedes still think they have to be a member, at least by name of the Lutheran church.
Walpurgis, or the Swedish word, “Valborg”, is on May 1st. In many parts of the world it is May Day. The celebration starts with Walpurgis night, or “Vaborgsmassoafton”. The Walpurgis celebration is practiced mostly in Northern Europe, and is especially strong in Sweden.
One of the main attractions of Walpurgis is burning a huge bonfire, set at dusk on April 30th. The custom began in the 18th century, and was originally with the purpose of keeping away evil spirits. But now it is usually seen as a celebration of springtime. Burning off the dead of winter, and cleansing of the fresh and new spring.
The Scouts are active in Sweden, and we have a troop connected with Ryttargårdskyrkan (Baptist), the church I attend. They have the role of starting the bonfire. There were about 50 of them.
There are other traditional events on April 30th, and May 1st, associated with Walpurgis. Bands and orchestras will play Spring songs, choirs will sing, public officials will speak. We were told that the men’s choir sings once a year at the church we attend, that one time is on Walpurgis night. “Fika” (coffee, pastries, and fellowship) is also a part of the Walpurgis night celebration. A prayer tent was also available for anyone in the church, or community, to pray. This could be done privately or with a counselor.
Of course, many continue the celebration of Walpurgis night by patronizing the bars, and shooting firecrackers.
There is a traditional hat worn by university students. It is black in the winter, and white in Spring and Summer. There is a changing of the hat ceremony on Walpurgis, or the day before.
The spring celebration continues throughout the next day. In some places there are parades. Musical groups are very busy on Walpurgis. Many families have picnics in celebration.
Here are more pictures of the celebration at the church.
There are two other special things remembered on this two day celebration. On April 30th, flags are flown in honor of King Carl XVI Gustaf’s birthday. Also May 1st is Swedish Labour Day. The Swedish worker starts the holiday about noon on April 30th, and is also off work on the 1st of May.
I enjoyed Walpurgis night, celebrating at my church. I was able to spend time with friends, and meet new ones. Traditions are different, but there is so much similarity in all of it. Also,the weather cooperated beautifully. On April 30th, it was the first day since I have been here, that the temperature got in the 60’s F. On May 1st, it was even warmer. I welcome you, Spring in Sweden!
Globe Trottin Granny