• Sweden edition
 
Valborg - Sweden blazes into springtime

Valborg - Sweden blazes into springtime

Published: 29 Apr 2011 11:00 GMT+02:00
Updated: 29 Apr 2011 11:00 GMT+02:00

Winter's over. Summer is just around the corner. That's as good a cause for celebration in Sweden as any, and the revelry on Valborgsmässoafton - Walpurgis Night - on April 30th gets pretty heated.

Intensely so, actually, as massive bonfires up and down the country honour an 8th-century German abbess, St. Walpurga, or Valborg in Swedish.

For those of you ready to point out that the Swedish calendar recognizes Valborg on May 1st, keep in mind that as the holiday contains the Swedish word ‘afton’, it is on the eve of Valborg’s Day that things get hot.

Despite its modern links to Christianity, Valborgsmässoafton, which has been celebrated in Sweden since the Middle Ages, is one of two Swedish holidays which still resemble their pre-Christian merrymaking. The other is Midsummer.

The original pagan festival heralded the onset of the growth season. It attempted to ward off evil, ensure fertility and cleanse the land of the dried and dead of winter. Today, it is still the accepted gateway to long and warmer days.

Few modern Swedes know, and even fewer care, much about the origins of the festival. Nevertheless, they cherish it.

Valborg, as it is fondly, and more conveniently, known, calls for a mountainous bonfire and a crowd. These enormous blazes are either organized by the local municipality or neighbourhood.

The larger, municipality-sponsored bonfires have a carnival-like atmosphere. The less flammable neighbourhood fires have a block-party enthusiasm.

Size doesn’t truly matter in a bonfire - you just have to find or ignite one. The imminent spring elates all and the community unites in spirit. Indeed, there's almost a spiritual feel to the gathering.

What happens at a typical Valborg brasa or bonfire? Bundled crowds of optimistic Swedes warm themselves facing the blaze. Mischievous children feed the fire with anything flammable they can drag and toss into the flames.

If you’re lucky you experience a most romantic experience where the crowd sings uplifting odes to the spring as they clutch their Valborg beer. These folksongs bring a nostalgic feel which reminds the outdoorsy Swede that better weather and coveted Swedish summer is soon upon them.

If you’re truly fortunate, this is your opportunity to hear some elderly, yet enthusiastic 'gubbe' - a certain sort of ageing Swedish chap - rally the crowd with his accordion. The rest of the year he is just the old man with the squeezebox, but today he is the music man, the centre of the party.

Valborg is one day - and they are few and far between in the Swedish calendar - when you can grab a strangers hand and skip and sing without recoil.

If you want the wild, student version then make the pilgrimage to Uppsala or Lund, the two biggest university towns in Sweden. Students guarantee your day will be filled with music, joviality and as much beer as you imagine. There are also rumours of nubile bodies rolling down hills. You’ll have to see it to believe it.

Pure tradition oozes at Stockholm's Skansen. The open air museum provides a backdrop of genuine Swedish countryside smack in the middle of downtown Stockholm.

However, the most intimate place to celebrate Valborg is close to home. Check your local newspaper or with your neighbours which local park will be lighting up a bonfire. After a long winter cooped up behind closed doors, a brotherly love extends throughout the neighbourhood.

This is your chance to get to know those people that barely lift their eyes at you the rest of the year. And besides, the old guy's pretty good on that squeezebox.

Elizabeth Dacey-Fondelius (news@thelocal.se)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

14:01 April 29, 2011 by Iron E
I swear I think I read this same article last year.
13:58 April 30, 2011 by Swedesmith
Reduce, re-use, recycle.
00:30 May 1, 2012 by DAVID T
arseholes will be sore in the morning
Today's headlines
Missing Swede found alive and well in UK
Sofie Marie Jansson. Photo: Metropolitan Police

Missing Swede found alive and well in UK

British police have found the missing Swedish girl Sofie Jansson in London, exactly a week after she was last seen, with authorities saying she is doing well. READ () »

Social Democrats make tax pledge to elderly

Social Democrats make tax pledge to elderly

Sweden's opposition party have stepped up its efforts to secure the pensioner vote by pledging to lower taxes for the elderly and make higher earners pay more. READ () »

Malmö Nazi attack victim on the mend
Showan Shattak pictured in Malmö before his attack. Photo: Facebook

Malmö Nazi attack victim on the mend

The 25-year-old man, whose stabbing by neo-Nazis sparked mass demonstrations across Sweden, has made a strong recovery in hospital and took to social media to thank supporters for campaigning against fascism. READ () »

Police seeking missing Swede in London

British police have issued a plea for tips in the search to find Swedish national Sofie Marie Jansson who hasn't been seen for almost a week. READ () »

University applications rocket to record high

University applications rocket to record high

Swedish universities continue to draw vast amounts of applicants with the number of prospective students seeking a third level education increasing for the seventh year in a row. READ () »

Man jailed in US over Lars Vilks murder plot
Swedish artist Lars Vilks pictured in New York in 2012. Photo: Linus Sundahl-Djerf/TT

Man jailed in US over Lars Vilks murder plot

American authorities have sentenced a 20-year-old accomplice of 'Jihad Jane' to five years in prison for an attempted terror plot to kill Swedish artist Lars Vilks, after getting involved with the murder plans when he was a teenager. READ () »

Sweden scraps 'new start zones' after EU input
Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag visits a school in Tensta, one of the neighbourhoods mentioned when he and his colleagues first floated the new start zone proposal. File: TT

Sweden scraps 'new start zones' after EU input

Sweden has abandoned a plan to ease taxes for small companies in blighted areas after the European Commission challenged its legality. READ () »

'Easter eggs an invitation to spread germs'
A typical Swedish Easter egg. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

'Easter eggs an invitation to spread germs'

A Swedish microbiologist has warned that traditional Swedish Easter eggs laden with candy are an open invitation to the spread of bacteria and viruses. "Is this really a good idea?" he asked. READ () »

Jammed truck snarls Stockholm rush hour
Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Jammed truck snarls Stockholm rush hour

PICTURES: A truck got wedged inside a tunnel in central Stockholm on Thursday, with authorities concerned the accident may have damaged cables in the tunnel's ceiling. READ () »

Kids in Victorian garb mark Swedish Easter
A Swedish Easter witch holding daffodils. File photo: TT

Kids in Victorian garb mark Swedish Easter

In India, I'd notice Easter only from the traffic jam outside the churches, but here witches, egg hunts, and feathers mark the Christian holiday. The Local's Deepti Vashisht brings you the various shades of Swedish Easter. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
Swedish supermarket Ica pulls contested Easter commercial off air
Kungahuset
Society
Swedish royals set baptism date for princess
finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 16
Politics
Who's the prime minister's heir?
Alfie Atkins
Society
Are children's books the key to families integrating in Sweden?
National
'Sweden Dem protests cater to party's martyr image'
National
'Swedish research grants were fantastic, but now it's like Australia'
Society
Only in Sweden: The ten problems you'd never encounter elsewhere
National
Swedes stopped to take my picture, but didn't look me in the eyes
Business & Money
A swipe of the hand replaced cash and cards in Lund
YouTube
Features
Video: Oliver Gee finds out how to embrace The Swedish Hug
TT
National
Abba duo hints at reunion
Advertisement:
Private
National
Flash mobs hug it out across Sweden
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 11-13
TT
Politics
Swedes to give six-hour workday a go
TT
Society
Aussie choir member wows Abba in Sweden
YouTube
Society
Stockholm magic a surprise YouTube hit
Fastighetsbyrån
Society
Gallery: The Local's Property of the Week
Private
Society
Swedes find 200-year-old gravestone in living room
Stockholm School of Economics
Sponsored Article
Why a bachelor's degree is no longer enough
Deepti Vashisht
Features
Deepti Vashisht dissects the magic of Sweden's personal ID number
Shutterstock
Society
Ten signs you've been in Sweden too long
Society
Jimi Fritze heard every word when doctors discussed taking his organs
Society
A Swedish farmer explains why the new bestiality ban is 'pointless'
ESL
Sponsored Article
Learning Swedish the easy way
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Blog Update: The Diplomatic Dispatch

28 October 15:16

The Green Growth Group Summit »

"Today on the 28 October in Brussels, a large group of key EU Ministers and business people, including UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey, and Swedish Environment Minister Lena Ek, will meet to discuss green growth. They all have a stake in resolving a challenge which, although it is crucial..." READ »

751
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com