Happy Valborg!

Happy Valborg!

Happy Valborg!

The 1st May, or Valborg (Vappu in Finnish), is a huge celebration in the Nordic countries. It's when students – young and old  –  wear their graduation hats and party until late at night.

In Helsinki, a chosen university would traditionally dress Havis Amanda, a statue near the South Harour with a massive white student cap, but this year, because the statue is being restored, the ceremony is being held elsewhere in the city. 

There are many other events happening all around the country too, with people eating special tippaleipä, a type of doughnut cooked in strips into a tight ball and lemon-flavoured mead. There are balloons, multi coloured streamers, and other festive decorations everywhere. Some alcohol is also consumed. ;-)

Why a White Cap?

A question I get asked a lot is why we wear a white cap. Talking about it gives me an excellent excuse to repost a picture of me with my graduation hat. (I do this every year.)

Me in a white student cap

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 and hair. I was incredibly happy. My grades were good and I was 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. (This is where my short story, The Day We Met, is set. You can download a free copy of this story, exclusive to my Readers Group mailing list here.)

These white caps are used all 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. In Sweden, the colours are blue and yellow. In Denmark, the black outside edge is replaced by a red and white stripe, reflecting the country's national colours.

Unfortunately, during the various house moves, I've lost my white cap, so if I’ll be in 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!

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