When you're this close to the top of the world, a place where the sun shines none of the time or all of the time, the seasons take on a different meaning, and intensity. So much so that the Swedish calendar is decorated with holidays that mark the comings and goings of the various seasons. The springtime annual tribute is known as Valborgsmässoafton or "Walpurgis Night."
This Swedish festival takes place in metropolitan city centers, smaller local communities as well as neighborhoods on April 30th, then May 1st is Labor Day so many Swedes will take a couple days off, especially if these dates fall on or near a weekend. Regardless of when or where it is celebrated, the most recognized part of Walpurgis Night is the blazing bonfire, which, in earlier times, was supposed to scare away evil to ensure upcoming growth and agricultural prosperity. These days, however, the bonfire is a symbol of the oncoming warmer and lighter days of Swedish outdoor fun and summertime rest and recreation.
My first Valborgsmässoafton was spent here in Linköping, starting at 3:00pm at the castle near the Domkyrkan where a men's choir affiliated with Linköping University sang the traditional Valborg songs while wearing traditional Swedish hats that are essentially captain hats worn, I believe, for multiple varying occasions and holidays throughout Sweden. In the evening, most of Linköping gathered at the end of the river for more from a choir, the lighting of the bonfire staged safely in the river and concluding with a spectacular fireworks show. The whole atmosphere of Valborg is akin to the American holidays of Memorial Day or Labor Day (despite the July 4th-like fireworks) when the smaller, neighborhood gatherings take place, usually around a grill and other summertime merriment.
Just one of many Swedish holidays that I've been privileged to observe this year, Valborgsmässoafton was a welcomed break from the norm and the Linköping celebration in particular was a chance to celebrate with friends and strangers who share a small town in Sweden. For a worthier explanation of this unique holiday, I refer you to my Swedish-news-in-English online website: