Finnish Vappu in a nutshell
You have probably heard of Vappu, since it’s in the minds of every Finnish student now that it’s almost here. For students, Vappu gives a much needed break from the pressure of deadlines and exams, but what is it really celebrated for?
Vappu, or May Day, is a mainly Western celebration that is held on 1.5. Also celebrated internationally, in Finland, the Vappu eve is celebrated as carnival of labour movement, students and the spring. Vappu has been celebrated since the Middle Ages, also in Finland, but not before 1970 has Vappu been an official flag day here. Over time Vappu has become a growingly important student celebration, marking the end of the spring semester.
What does it have to do with students?
Vappu, as the student celebration that it is today, came to Finland from Sweden. Students in Turku are known to have celebrated Vappu as early as in the 1700, when the arrival of spring was celebrated with singing!
Each student city in Finland has their own traditions: usually they include “patsaan lakitus”, which means that the students will put a graduation cap on an important statue in their respective cities. Usually the tradition also includes washing the statue. In Turku, the students have put the cap on statue Lilja, which is located in Runeberg’s park next to the Aura bridge, since 1929. Each city has their own special traditions, like for example in Kuopio, Eastern Finland, the students also throw a professor in a fountain! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2maqiHyFxc <- At the very end of the video you can see how they cast the professor into the water!)
They even make Posankka (The Pigduck) wear the cap.
Already back in 1800’s it was important to eat and drink heavily during Vappu, since it was believed that by doing so, you could gain strength for the upcoming summer. So eat and drink we do!
The most traditional delicacies of Vappu are sima and tippaleipäs. Sima, or mead, is a sweet sparkling brew - it’s like a sweet lemonade! Tippaleipä on the other hand is the sweet pastry that looks suspiciously like brains, a special Vappu funnel cake. We also eat a lot of munkkis (doughnuts), and potato salad with frankfurters.
Sima and tippaleipä - the classic combo
What happens during Vappu?
The Vappu eve starts around midday with all student organisations offering punch around the university area. In the afternoon, all the student organisations join the flag parade from the university towards the city center. Everyone gathers around Art Museum hill, where you can witness a solemn speech by the Student Union, performances and other festivities. The hill is full of people and you can really feel the joy and celebration in the air! One of the most memorable moments is when all the students wear their student caps at the same time.
Vappu celebration at Art Museum Hill in Turku, 2010.
After the official festivities, the sea of students normally heads to river bank to continue celebrating and to hang out. We eat and drink, of course. We also put serpentine streamer everywhere.
On the next day, the actual May Day on the first of May, it’s time to celebrate some more. Students head to Vartiovuorenmäki for a huge student picnic: student organisations are having a picnic there, and the hill is filled with students who won’t give up on celebrating! (In Finland, we have this saying "Vappu ei lopu", literally meaning Vappu doesn't end. Some students with the best endurance celebrate Vappu for the whole April.)
So, expect to see a sea of students in their overalls of all kinds and lots of people, from young adults to elderly people, wearing their graduation caps, celebrating and feeling the summer approaching! (Even though it might look like the first snow outside right now...)
Don’t forget to visit our stand outside of Educarium for some Vappu punch and doughnuts on Vappu eve! Naturally, we also take part at the Vappu day picnic, so find us for good company and more delicious doughnuts. Remember to bring your cup so you can visit other organisations' stands for more free punch too!
Anxiously waiting for Vappu, yours truly!