|The 1st May, or Walburg (Vappu in Finnish), is a huge celebration in the Nordic countries. It’s when students, both young and old, wear their graduation hats and party until late at night.
In normal times, on the Eve of Vappu, people take to the streets in huge numbers. In the Finnish capital, Helsinki, a statue called Havis Amanda, is adorned with her own white cap.
A Different Vappu This Year
|In 2020, things will be a little different.
‘This year Vappu will have to be celebrated without big crowds,’ said Prime Minister Sanna Marin of Finland, warning revellers to take responsibility and not congregate this year.
I sincerely hope these measures in Finland, and all over the world, mean that as many deaths as possible will be avoided in the future and that we will get back to normal soon.
I haven’t been to Finland for Vappu in several years or even decades. Every year, I vow to go and celebrate this student festival. Obviously this year, with a 14-day quarantine in place for anyone entering the country in Finland and a lockdown in the UK, it’s impossible, but perhaps next year this long-held dream of mine will come true.
Thinking about it, wouldn’t it make a good start to a book? Returning to your home country for a special celebration… will she rekindle an old love? Find out long-held family secrets? Rediscover the delights of home and decide to stay? Or will the celebrations turn into a nightmare where one friend will be pitched against another…? OK, getting carried away now! See how these things start? 😆
Why a White Cap?
This is a question I get asked a lot. Talking about the white cap gives me an excellent excuse to repost a picture of me with my graduation hat. (I do this every year)
This image was taken by my then-boyfriend on the day of my graduation from college. The sun was low on the horizon against the Baltic Sea outside Lauttasaari Island, where I lived at the time. Hence the golden glow on my face. I was incredibly happy. My grades were good and I was well on my way to starting my studies at Hanken School of Economics.
But back to the caps. We receive these hats in Finland when we pass our Baccalaureate Exams. The tradition started in the middle of the 19th century.
According to Wikipedia a group of students from Helsinki University commissioned a seamstress to make white caps in velvet, similar to those used at Uppsala University in Sweden (where, incidentally, my short story, The Day We Met, is set).
These white caps are used all of over the Nordic countries, with slight variations. In Finland, the velvet caps have a blue and white lining in silk, representing the colours of our national flag. While in Sweden, the colours are blue and yellow. In Denmark, the black outside edge is replaced by a red and white stripe, again reflecting the country’s national colours.
Unfortunately, during the various house moves, I’ve lost my white cap, so if I ever get to go to Finland for Vappu, I’m not sure what I’ll do. Wearing one’s cap is pretty obligatory during the celebrations…
Whatever you are doing to celebrate Vappu, Valborg or Walburg,
I hope you have a lovely time!