Valborg in Sweden: booze, music and raft racing
Published: 30 Apr 12 15:15 CET
Summer is just around the corner, and this is celebrated most heartily around Sweden as the revelry of Valborgsmässoafton - Walpurgis Night – kicks off around the country. The Local's Oliver Gee finds out more.
While the actual reason behind the nationwide celebrations is largely forgotten by many, Valborg (as it is fondly and more conveniently known) honours an 8th-century German abbess, St. Walpurga - or “Valborg” in Swedish.
In most towns around Sweden, Valborg calls for a mountainous bonfire and a crowd. Maybe even a men's choir singing the traditional ditty "Vintern Rasat Ut". These spectacles are usually organized by the local municipality.
It’s a great chance to spend some time with other members of your community, many of whom take the occasion to come out of hibernation and gather, singing Swedish folk songs and dancing.
However, the real action in Sweden occurs in the nation’s student cities, especially Lund in the south and Uppsala, eastern Sweden, where revelers take the good weather with a good dose of extreme madness.
In Uppsala, this is especially true. People flock from far and wide for the biggest street-party of the year, where students let loose and lose their winter inhibitions and clothes for the first time of the year.
The day typically kicks off with a champagne breakfast, which inevitably ends up with more champagne splashed around the rooms of the student nations than in champagne glasses.
After this, thousands of eager Uppsala residents squeeze up along the walls of the little Fyris River to catch a glimpse of the 100 or so homemade rafts that students have decorated and painted specifically for the event.
With the two miniature waterfalls along the river, half the fun is watching to see if the ‘sailors’ manage to keep dry, or indeed, if the rafts keep in one piece at all.
“It was madness! Everyone was cheering,” said one sailor to The Local, from the Super Viking Brothers team.
“I toppled out on the second waterfall – the water was so cold, I could hardly move. They tried to pull me into the boat but my body was too cold to help them. But wow, that was fun!”
When the waters have calmed and the crowd has moved on, thousands gather in a boozy meeting in one of the city’s bigger parks, seeing in the warmer weather with loud music, dancing, and wild student antics only known to those who’ve looked into the eye of the beast that is a Swedish student city.
For those less keen on the mayhem, there is always a bonfire nearby in the evening, complete with opportunities to break the ice with the neighbours you may not have seen over the long Swedish winter.
All in all, while many will wake up on Tuesday with a throbbing headache, Valborg is one of the most cherished days on the Swedish calendar. But don’t say we didn’t warn you if you’re Uppsala-bound.
Follow Oliver on Twitter here
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