Our offices are based in Oxford, a town which comes alive on May Day Morning. With choirs singing from the church tower, to Morris dancers and general May Day cheer, courtesy of the Oxford students! So we thought here at Transun we would take a look at what Nordic May Day traditions take place in our destinations.
Well, it’s not quite May Day celebrations, but on April 30, the Swedes celebrate Walpurgis Eve. This is not a family affair Swedes tell us, this is a largely public gathering all around the nation with songs and bonfires. But what is Walpurgis Eve? Well traditionally April 30 was a day of festivity among merchants and craftsman with dancing and singing in preparation for the forthcoming celebration of spring. Among farmers and peasants, it was the day of the annual village meeting where a new alderman was appointed. Because of this, the farm animals were left out to graze and thus bonfires were lit to keep predators away from the livestock whilst farmers enjoyed their schnapps! May Day on the other hand, (apart from nursing a sore head!) in Sweden in the present day is a public holiday and a day usually of demonstrations and heated speeches. Not quite dancing around the May Pole then!
Similar to Sweden, Finland has their own celebration of Walpurgis Eve, however rather than May Day being a raucous day of demonstrations, in Finland large crowds gather in public parks to eat. And what do they eat you ask? Well, a typical May Day lunch includes herring, gravlax, schnapps and a special Finnish May Day dessert – the May Day Fritter. This is a round, deep fried pastry coated with icing, and the perfect accompaniment? Mead, (thought to be the drink of mighty Gods and fearless Vikings), is a fermented alcoholic drink made of water, honey, malt, yeast, herbs and lemon juice, and is said to be the earliest man-made alcoholic beverage. We might stick to a cup of tea…
Now although Norway has a public holiday on the 1 May, there big event this month is the 17 May – Norway’s National Day. This is the day in 1814 when after being under Danish autocracy for 400 years, Norway got its own Constitution, declaring the country as an independent nation alongside Sweden. Although full independence was not declared until 1905, May 17 remains Norway’s official National Day. And how do they celebrate? Parades of course! With flags, banners, bands and children dressed in national costumes all from 7am in the morning! Now that is one an early morning wakeup call!
Although these Nordic countries spring to life in the summer, the winter months bring a magical stillness of snow-blanketed hills and trees, dark polar nights, and of course, the Northern Lights. If you fancy taking a break to Sweden, a trip to Finland or an experience whale watching in Norway, here at Transun we can provide you with a unique Arctic holiday.