Today, 30 April, is Walpurgis Eve, called Valborgsmässoafton in Swedish, or ‘Valborg’ for short. The name Walpurgis is taken from the eighth-century Saint Walburga, and in Sweden this day marks the arrival of spring.
In a cold, dark country like Sweden, residents have suffered through a long, miserable winter. So it is no surprise that the arrival of spring is an occasion to mark. On the evening of Valborg, Swedes usually gather to celebrate together.
The forms of celebration vary in different parts of the country and between different cities. However, essential celebrations include lighting a large bonfire, listing to choirs singing traditional spring songs and a speech to honour the arrival of the spring season. Some of the traditional spring songs are titled ‘Beautiful May – Welcome!’ and ‘Longing for the countryside – winter rushes out’. You can see a clip below.
Walpurgis bonfires are an impressive thing to see and are part of a Swedish tradition dating back to the early 18th century. At Walpurgis, cattle was put out to graze and bonfires lit to scare away predators.
The weather is often unpredictable on Walpurgis Eve. It can be sunny and warmish, or it can still snow on 30 April! Today looks like it’ll be a cold one.
Despite bad weather, Swedes still shiver around the bonfires and ironically celebrate the arrival of Spring.