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Swedish Ways: Valborgsmässoafton

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.

“When the trains stop running, you have to do the pumping yourself” [Source]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.)

P.S. Happy birthday, King Carl XVI Gustaf!

Traxy Thornfield

A Swedish introvert residing in Robin Hood Country (Nottingham, UK) with a husband and two cats. She's an eager participant in tabletop and play-by-post roleplaying, woodworking, photography and European travel, when there's not a plague on. Might get a novel out one of these days, if she doesn't get too distracted along the way.

One thought on “Swedish Ways: Valborgsmässoafton

  1. As a current student at Uppsala University I just have to make a few corrections about valborg in Uppsala:
    Students in Uppsala do NOT tend to sing at Valborg (with a group of exceptions, one of them including a group that made this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQoCEvVL57E&ob=av2e).

    However, the engineering and science students always organise some rafting down the river and a lot of students start the day with champagne (after partying the day before at “kvalborg” (where “kval” can refer to qualification as in sports competitions or just as well some version of pain). Often the students later end up either at one of the nations to dance and spray “champagne” at each other, or in one of the parks (or rather a big field of grass outside one of the univeristy buildings; last year 15000 of us went there).

    Also, there are a number of spring balls at the first of may, which means that some university students party more or less hard for three days straight. Of course there are also other things happening on valborg in Uppsala, such as herring lunch, two choirs having concerts, some students and a lot of ex-students gather in front of the main library building and then rectrix magnifica stands on a balcony and puts on her graduation cap at 3pm and then everyone else there follow suit.

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