Info about Vappu

Vappu (1st of May) is just around the corner, and we all hopefully know what that means – crazy parties, freaky events and all things fun! So what is this vappu thing anyways?

DISCLAIMER: Possibly boring historical & cultural facts coming up!

Vappu comes possibly from german name Walburg. Walburg was Bavarian abbess during 8th Century, who was declared as Saint on her nameday 1st of May. As had happened many times during Christianization, this same day happened to be a day of festivities in older religious habits at Finland and even though the name changed, many traditions have stayed the same, at least at the countryside. During vappu people brew low-alcohol mead, which is called sima in Finnish and bake deepfried doughnut covered in sugar, munkki, or funnel cake, tippaleipä, which is made by pouring batter into hot cooking oil in circular pattern, ending up looking like brains with powdered sugar on the top. Mead and beer have always belonged to vappu festivities, nowadays sparkling wine and champagne have many ways replaced those as more common drinks at vappu.

To students vappu is one of the biggest events during the year, especially in Helsinki region. Nowadays the Vappu celebrations start already at 30th of April or even earlier with Pre-Vappu parties. Vappu as a traditional student festivity day has come from Sweden during 18th Century, when Finland’s only university was situated at Turku. At Academy of Finland, people celebrated spring by singing at Vappu. When Finland was part of Russia, 1820s czar of Russia forbade these old celebrations of spring. After huge fire at Turku 1827, Academy of Finland was moved to Helsinki and spring festivies were restarted. During 1870s celebration of Vappu became more common, probably because the use of student cap was allowed from beginning of May to end of September and it was presented in it’s modern form.

So what is this strange hat everybody seems to be wearing? The Finnish student cap or ylioppilaslakki is a tradition that follows the Swedish model, like many other Finnish academic traditions. The Finnish student cap has an appearance similar to the Swedish version, but instead of coloured fabric cockade, it has a metallic, gold-colored cockade depicting the lyre of Apollo, the insignia of the University of Helsinki. The cap was introduced in its present form in 1870s. Until 1950’s, the university students usually wore the cap during the whole summer holiday of the university, from Walpurgis Night or Vappu until the end of September. Nowadays, the cap is used mostly during 1 May and in academic ceremonies and occasions. The cap is worn by all Finnish high school, lukio, graduates. As in Sweden, the students of Engineering usually wear a special student cap, teekkarilakki, with a long tassel.

The biggest events of Vappu are Mantan lakitus and Vappu picnic. Mantan lakitus is an event where students from different Student Unions place a cap on Havis Amanda statue’s head. Havis Amanda is a nude female statue right next to the Kauppatori, where ferries leave to Suomenlinna. It is a huge event on 30.4 beginning 17 o’clock, where students of young and old gather to celebrate and place their caps on their heads on the second Amanda has it’s own. The whole evening of 30th of April is filled with different parties. 1st of May vappu picnic is organized at Ullanlinnanmäki, where people can enjoy spring weather with sparkling wine and potato salad. In short, many wonderous, delightful, happy and fabulous events happen on vappu. Join in and have a unforgettable experience!