• 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

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)

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
National
King Carl XVI Gustaf opens parliament
King Carl XVI Gustaf arriving on Tuesday afternoon. Photo: TT

King Carl XVI Gustaf opens parliament

BREAKING: Sweden's post-election parliament is meeting for the first time following a fanfare opening from King Carl XVI Gustaf. READ  

Opinion
Should Sweden's school age be raised?
A high school in Stockholm. Photo: TT

Should Sweden's school age be raised?

After the new coalition announced plans to extend Sweden's compulsory schooling until the age of 18, The Local asked two Swedes at high school if they agreed with the idea. READ  

International
Sweden slammed for ecological footprint
Sweden should increase its renewable energy according to WWF. Photo:TT

Sweden slammed for ecological footprint

Sweden is among the world's top ten polluters according to one of the largest scientific studies looking at the impact of humans on earth, produced by the WWF. READ  

Society
Swede's necklace found after 52 years in lake
Ing-Marie Olofsson whose necklace was found. Photo: Private

Swede's necklace found after 52 years in lake

A 66-year-old Swedish woman got the surprise of her life when a fisherman returned the necklace she dropped in a lake at the age of 14. READ  

International
Apology for Swedish model's stolen photos
Malin Sahlén during a Top Model shoot. Photo: TV3/Nina Holma

Apology for Swedish model's stolen photos

A British newspaper has apologised after a freelance journalist stole a Sweden's Next Top Model contestant's photo and created a fake Twitter account used to trick a UK minister. READ  

Brand stories
Johanna N: beautiful jewellery with a story

Johanna N: beautiful jewellery with a story

Aged just 27 and already living off of her own designs, some may consider Johanna Nilsson lucky. But she doesn't believe in luck. She's the founder of a jewellery line blending sustainability, subtle style, and Scandinavian simplicity - and it's taking the world by storm. READ  

Sport
Heel injury sidelines Zlatan in Barcelona clash
Photo: AP

Heel injury sidelines Zlatan in Barcelona clash

Paris Saint-Germain star Zlatan Ibrahimovic will miss Tuesday's Champions League clash with Barcelona at the Parc des Princes due to a nagging heel problem, the French club have confirmed. READ  

National
Stockholm patient tests negative after Ebola fears
The Infection Clinic at the Karolinska University Hospital in Huddinge. Photo: TT

Stockholm patient tests negative after Ebola fears

A patient in a Stockholm hospital who was suspected of having contracted the Ebola virus was given the all clear on Tuesday morning. READ  

Elections 2014
New coalition agrees on defence and migration
A Jas Gripen. Photo: TT

New coalition agrees on defence and migration

UPDATED: The Green Party has committed itself to expanding Sweden's defence force, while the Social Democrats have compromised on work permits for migrants. READ  

National
Fresh Ebola case investigated in Sweden
The patient is being treated at the Karolinska University Hospital. Photo: TT

Fresh Ebola case investigated in Sweden

Doctors in Stockholm are checking a patient suspected of having contracted the Ebola virus. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Fastighetsbyrån
Gallery
Property of the week: Botkyrka
Education
New government to make school compulsory to 18
Politics
Sweden Democrat wins Deputy Speaker spot
National
Swedish scientists sneak Bob Dylan lyrics into articles
Lifestyle
The five best Swedish songs of the month
Blog updates

28 September

Spoiled Doyle (Blogweiser) »

"What you gotta watch out for in Sweden is the good stuff. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Re_EzUe6xpI In Sweden, it’s the good things you have to watch out for. Video on @TheLocalSweden http://t.co/rAb8eGFdTD pic.twitter.com/w37YYwMXy1 — Joel Sherwood (@joeldsherwood) September 29, 2014 " READ »

 

26 September

 (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Autumn swept into Sweden at the start of this week with snow in the north of the country and flooding in the south. As well as a change in the weather, Sweden’s change in political direction became clearer, with Social Democrat leader Stefan Lofven formally announcing his party would work with the Greens as..." READ »

 
 
 
Gallery
People-watching: September 28th
National
When Italian style meets Swedish simplicity
Lifestyle
Review: Sweden's first alcohol-free nightclub
Gallery
In Pictures: The MS Estonia disaster
Lifestyle
Ten things expat women notice in Sweden
Politics
What's next on Sweden's political stage?
Gallery
Sweden's 2014 election: Most memorable moments
Society
What's on in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: September 24th
Seaman Oliver Gee with his first lobster
Lifestyle
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Gallery
In Pictures: Fredrik Reinfeldt through the years.
Society
Plucked out of Canada for love and guitars
Politics
How Sweden Democrats went mainstream
Politics
Scandinavia and Scotland: closer links?
Sponsored Article
How to start a business in Stockholm
Society
Why is Stockholm's Södermalm so cool?
Politics
Sweden elections: Who's who?
Sponsored Article
Introducing… Insurance in Stockholm
Gallery
Princess Estelle through the years
Business & Money
Five golden rules for the Swedish job hunt
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

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 Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

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

877
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
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN