The First of May – like Christmas for Students!

Whether you’re a freshman on the verge of your first May Day celebration or a more experiensed celebrator, there’s not a better way to end your rough study year than the first of May. In Helsinki, the celebration of May Day, Vappu in Finnish, Vappen in Swedish, celebrations begin on 30 April.

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The capping of Manta in 2014, photograph by Mikko Virta

The high point of Vappu is on 6 p.m. on 30 April, May Day eve. The statue of Havis Amanda (nicknamed Manta) at the Market Square in the city centre gets her own student cap. Capping of Manta is big national event. So, if you want to get a good spot for watching the capping, be early, because both the Market Square and the Esplanade Park will be crowded. The statue is capped by a different student union each year, and this year the University of the Arts Student Union (TaiYo) have the honor of capping Manta! The Finnish students are allowed to wear their student cap, a black-and-white hat, only after Manta has got her own. All the Finns who have passed their matriculation exam have this hat, so expect to see thousands of Finns put on their caps after 6 p.m., to the sound of sparkling wine bottles being opened!

After the capping of Manta faculty and other student organisations organise parties at different locations. Students of social sciences have the Valtsika May Day, the Vappureha  is the party of the students of the Faculties of Science and Behavioural Sciences, whereas student nations’ members gather at the Hämiksen Wappu. Tickets for these and the many other student parties can be bought in advance, so check out the Facebook pages and follow the instructions! During the night there is carnival feeling all around the Helsinki, people partying and wandering everywhere. It is also the time to put your student overalls on!

Students picnicking on May Day, photograph by Katja Långvik

Traditionally May Day is a lot more than just parties. On the 1st of May the more formal celebrations begin in the Kaivopuisto Park, where on the hill of Ullanlinnanmäki student male voice choir Ylioppilaskunnan laulajat sings, and the chairpersons of the student unions hold speeches. The whole park is full of people having the traditional picnic of First of May. Traditional Finnish May Day food and drink includes doughnuts, tippaleipä (a kind of a funnel cake), mead and sparkling wine. Balloons and confetti are also traditional! You can buy all these from almost every grocery store in Helsinki, so it is easy to have a traditional picnic together with all the other students!