One thing that I missed in France every spring, was the Finnish Vappu. In France the 1st of May is also a workers day, and some demonstrations or politic speeches are organized, and you can find ‘lily of the valley – sellers’ in all metro stations and street-corners. It is also a way to celebrate spring, but in a very calm way. Streets are mostly empty and no-one is working that day.
So, as in Finland the celebrations for the 1st of May start already the day before and include a lot of traditions I was very happy to be finally in Finland this year and able to participate on that big spring-celebration! 😀
As I’m an endless epicure, I will start about the food traditions:
Sima – a sparkling brew, made mostly about water, sugar, and lemon, and including some raisins in the top of the bottles. The thing with sima is that it’s made by fermentation, and is ready about a week after it’s been put in bottles. When we were kids, my mom always used to do that at home, and I wanted to do some also this year… Only I didn’t realize I should have done earlier, and I left to France just before Vappu. So I didn’t have time to do it, and get it ready for the 1st of May. Maybe next year …?
Well, I had some home-made Sima in my aunts’ house, with freshly baked donuts ;).
Munkki (Donut) – is an other tradition for that spring-party, as well as Tippaleipä and Rosetti. I have to admit that I have never eaten Rosettes, they are traditionally Scandinavian Christmas cookies, but in Finland made also for Vappu…
Besides the sweets, Finnish Vappu traditions also include potato-salad and little sausages, or frankfurters. And as we are in Finland, the celebrations include a lot of alcohol. Nowadays Finns preferred drink for Vappu is champagne or sparkling wine, but also all other alcohols are relevant.
So, when do we eat all this, and how do we celebrate exactly?
As I mentioned before, people start the celebrations already the day before, so the 30.4, by picnicking or having some party at home with friends, by going out, and especially visiting the traditional Vappu-Market. The market is set in all big cities for the 2 days. It includes a lot of food-stands, costume-stands, candies, plays for kids, and some clothes and jewelries etc… And around the market we can always found tens of balloon-sellers. Those helium-balloons, called ‘Vappu-pallo’ are kids (and some adults’ also) best attraction for Vappu… The characters change every year, depending on the fashion-thing of the moment. This year it was ‘Elsa’ from the movie ‘Frozen’, and also the ‘Minions’…
Besides that Vappu is is the traditional workers day, and a way to celebrate the spring, it’s also a huge student-party. In Finland the university students get some different colors’ overalls (depending on their faculty department) and they wear them usually when they are partying… And those who have graduated from a Finnish high school have all a white graduation cap, which is also part of the traditional Vappu-accessories. That’s why on the May Day, the cities are full of students with colorfull overalls, and people wearing white hats!
In Tampere there’s a special tradition for the student of the Technical University, that they get dipped in the rapid in the middle of the city.
The way to celebrate also depends a lot about the weather. Finnish spring is quit unpredictable, and actually many Finns spend the week before Vappu by examining the forecasts. It’s quit normal, and a kind of inside joke in Finland, that usually it rains and is cold in May Day… Anyway, this year we were lucky! It only rained a little the May Day eve, but then the 1st of May it was very sunny and warm (+16 C!) and for the first time this spring I had the feeling that maybe summer is really coming to Finland too…. 😉
So, after hard partying on the May day Eve, everybody are having a little hangover the next day and having picnics and walks around the sunny city.
Well, like this it sounds that Finns really know how to celebrate the May Day and upcoming summer, but these celebrations have some dark sides too… For me personally, Vappu could be celebrated with less alcohol and in a cleaner way. By this I mean, that usually after Vappu the city center looks quit awful, and people still haven’t learn how to clean their traces after having fun.
One surprising and good point, I heard in the news this week, was that the sale of alcohol-free drinks have increased a lot this year!
And I had a fun Vappu with my friends, after many years that I hadn’t celebrate it at all! And now I do feel that spring and summer are coming in the north too ;).