Swedish traditions: Valborg (Walpurgis Eve)

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Valborg is short for Valborgsmässoafton, but it is also an old Nordic female name from the saint Valborg/Walpurga. Valborg is a day of celebrations and lots of fun activities around Sweden. Read on to learn more about this big folk fest!

When is Valborg?

Valborg is celebrated on the 30th of April each year which also happens to be the birthday of the Swedish king!

Why is Valborg celebrated?

Valborg is a very old tradition and used to be all about scaring away witches and bad spirits through lighting big fires (majbrasor – bonfires) for protection and making a lot of sounds to scare off evil forces.

Nowadays, Valborg is all about celebrating that spring has finally arrived. April is known to offer very unreliable weather, but Valborg marks the end of that and May is usually more stable, warm and sunny. Valborg has also become one of the big academic festivities. It is the day for the donning of the student caps, which marks the final period of high-school studies but also the academic year for university students. This tradition is especially big in Uppsala where Carolina Hill is the place to be.

What is the thing to do on Valborg?

The forms of celebration vary in different parts of the country and between different cities. Walpurgis celebrations are not a family occasion, but rather a public event.

How Swedes tend to celebrate Valborg is in part dependent on age. Valborg is especially big in Uppsala and Lund, the two major university cities. The day is often started with a champagne breakfast with strawberries. In Uppsala, there is a fun river rafting competition arranged by students. For students and young people, Ekonomikumparken is a popular place to spend the day in Uppsala, while in Lund, Stadsparken is the place to go. The atmosphere is very festive, resembling that of a (music) festival and all that comes with that.

Older people generally tend to shy away from these places and attend more cultural events instead. One of these traditions is listening to the big student choirs singing their tributes to spring. These choirs are old and prestigious and for many people the concerts on Valborg and 1st of May marks the true arrival of spring. On 1st of May, Lundagård is the place to be in Lund, to enjoy the wonderful songs from underneath the blossoming magnolias.

In Stockholm, Skansen is probably the most popular place to spend Valborg. There are several activities throughout the day and a big bonfire, accompanied by Stockholms Studentsångare (a student choir), in the evening.

Regardless of where you are in Sweden, you will be able to find a celebration with a bonfire and usually also a choir singing songs about spring. Just enjoying the fire and the music is a very nice and typically Swedish way of spending Valborg.

Glad Valborg! Happy Walpurgis Night!

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  • In some parts of the country, young people went round singing May songs in return for gifts of food on Walpurgis Eve. Those who gave them nothing were treated to a ‘nasty’ ditty. Elsewhere, people visited spas to drink the health-giving water and to amuse themselves.

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