On the final day of April, Swedes take to lighting big bonfires and sing to celebrate the coming of spring and to be free of the final clutches of winter.
Traditionally, we’d put on our graduation caps and sing in choirs (especially if you’re a university student at Lund or Uppsala), about how spring has sprung. The event is called Walpurgisnacht in Germany, but we call it Valborg, or Valborgsmässoafton.
Work-wise, it’s normally taken as a half-holiday, especially if it falls later in the week – May 1st is a red letter day (or bank holiday), so people tend to get quite drunk on Valborg. After all, they can spend the next day recuperating.
Because I’m from the Gothenburg area, I have to mention Chalmerscortègen, which is a parade organised by Chalmers University of Technology. There are students all around town selling the Corgège programme, which is full of jokes and silly drawings.
I don’t think I’ve ever been to see a Valborg bonfire, but have heard the choirs sing on TV. Nowadays, I think of it more in terms of Beltane … and wedding anniversaries. (My own, that is, although I found out after we got married that apparently we share a wedding day with a certain massmurdering dictator who shot himself in a bunker in 1945.)
See the film below, found on YouTube, where you can see some footage from the 2010 celebration in Uppsala:
P.S. Happy birthday, King Carl XVI Gustaf!