Sunday, May 06, 2007

Valborg: A Swedish Welcome of Spring





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:

Trevlig Valborg, alla. Vi ses nästa vecka.

7 comments:

Björn said...

Sean, those traditionall hats are actually student hats. You get yours when you "tar studenten" (= graduate from upper secondary school)

Anonymous said...

one question on the article: What is a squeezebox? an instrument?

Maria said...

As björn said; the hats are for gratuation.. just wait for the 15th june then there will be to many hats to count!

By the way you have too go to the "prom" and watch the seniors dance. Go to Berzans prom, they will be the most!

love your blogg

Anonymous said...

So there was a giant fire and I wasn't invited? Bad oversight Mr. Whiting... Besides, no one can welcome spring like Carol can. Her Blossom Love Fest (now annual) is WAY better. Just sayin.

Best,
D

Todd said...

I just left LA...flying over a blazing brush fire. In fact, I wonder if this "bonfire" was started by a lost Swede trying to celebrate Valborgsmässoafton. hmmm...

I flew into New York only to get stuck in traffic caused by a "Free Paris Hilton" rally.

We all celebrate Spring in different ways....so far, Sweden is winning.

Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

thank u for the lovely pics of valborgsmassoafton! i usually celebrate the holiday with a "get-drunk-party" as youths often do, but sometimes u feel the need of real traditional celebrating and rejoicing... / camilla

Christopher said...

I love that people still have traditions somewhere. I suppose we have fourth of july. But most of our activities are just individualistic reasons to drink beer and be less than decorous. Cool pics. You're gonna make me move to Sweden!