On April 30th and 1st of May we in Finland celebrate the holiday called Vappu. Vappu got started as a day of the workers and the students, but it’s now its purpose is mostly to celebrate the spring and the upcoming summer. And we celebrate the spring no matter what, even if there was snow, rain or whatever kind of natural disaster coming our way! What matters is that your spirit stays high.
What follows is a short guide to the Finnish Vappu, told by a Finn, from a very subjective point of view. These are some tips I have found handy during my years of celebrating this fine day!
Food and drinks
The celebration for vappu starts already on the 30th of April, the day before the actual 1st of May. That’s the time where you find yourself a nice drink, whether alcoholic or nonalcoholic. One of the most traditional vappu drinks is called sima, a sweet drink made from sugar, lemon, water and yeast. One of my personal vappu traditions is always forgetting to make sima in advance, and regretting it on the day, as you have to wait at least a week for the drink to ferment. But when you do, it pays off, because this drink is seriously awesome.
When you have your drink it’s good to focus on food. At vappu we often have these special vappu donuts, which are a deep-fried, sugary treat, and the handy ones make them themselves. During this time you also often make salads and other dishes from seasonal vegetables, that finally taste good after the long dark winter.
What to wear?
Now then, what to wear at vappu? One of the most traditional pieces of clothing are the perhaps strange looking white hats that people wear, called ylioppilaslakki, that are actually our high school graduation hats. They are a reminder of the origins of vappu, it being a holiday of the students. People in all ages wear the hat at vappu, and with very old people the hat is already so aged it turns yellow.
The students naturally wear their overalls, which are a great party outfit, because you don’t have to worry about them getting dirty (they will) and they often have very convenient pockets in which to hide your booze. The more patches you have, the bigger of a party animal you are, so on this day you can really spot the party people.
What to do?
The 30th is usually a good day to wander from party to party, because everyone is out, and everyone is enjoying the day. This might even be the perfect time to crash the party of someone you don’t know that well, because at vappu people won’t care, and they will welcome you (especially if you arrive with a bottle of something bubbly).
On the 1st of May the traditional thing is to get your hungover ass out, and to a picnic. One of the most important picnic places include Kaivopuisto, but really, any park will do. Just pick the patch of grass in front of your house, if you’re feeling too tired from the partying. Kaivopuisto is however worth a visit, because on that day it will be full of people, again from all ages, enjoying the day. Some people bring an impressive spread of picnic foods, while others just munch on chips or whatever they can find that day. An important thing to keep your mood up is to dress warm, because even if it’s sunny, the spring weather can be unpredictable! If the weather isn’t on your side, you can always move the picnic (and your friends) indoors.
Vappu is a great day and one of my favourite holidays. Celebrating being young and the spring, what could be better? Have a great Vappu, everyone!
Integration specialist at the CISSI board 2016