walpurgis day – a multifaceted festival

The 1st of May is a big deal here in Finland. It’s a festival of Spring; it’s also Workers’ Day, and a student celebration. In Finnish, the day is called Vappu (Walpurgis Day), and is celebrated with marches, speeches, picnics, and so on. Many cities have their own specific events, and people from the countryside often come to town to take part in the festivities.

As a child, I used to go to town with my family to (hopefully) enjoy the weather, the people, and maybe buy a balloon. Since I moved to Helsinki I’ve successfully stayed away from town during Vappu; it’s one of the largest holidays of the year, and one where a lot of people get quite drunk. It’s never sounded very tempting, or interesting. This year I decided to be brave and stay for Vappu Eve to experience some of the festivities.

In Helsinki, one of the big events on Vappu Eve is putting a student cap on Havis Amanda, a statue found by the water downtown. It marks the beginning of the festivities, and a lot of people bring and wear their caps from then on. Me, and about 30,000 other people, went to see the event – what I want to share with you today are a few photos of that experience. I hope you enjoy them!


People gathering downtown to celebrate. The people in overalls are university students – different majors have different colours.


Parents often buy balloons for their children – unfortunately many of them get lost and can be seen flying towards the clouds…


Students calmly playing cards in the middle of the crowd.


Students preparing to put a specially made cap on the statue Havis Amanda.


The crowd is patiently waiting, while cheering and trying to take photos of the spectacle.


People wave their own student caps while the statue is getting hers – it’s not until she has hers that people put their own ones on.


… and the holiday has started!


Havis Amada with her hat, and a fleeing balloon in the background.


The orchestra.


For May Day/Vappu Day, I fled to Tampere with some friends. I hope you all had a good May Day!

2 thoughts on “walpurgis day – a multifaceted festival

  1. I’d been told about the Finnish celebrations by a Finn I once corresponded with, but it’s wonderful to see it in pictures! And that last shot is wonderful!!

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