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Bonfire Night @ Valborg | by ichimusai
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Bonfire Night @ Valborg

The last of April is the big bonfire night in Sweden. It is also called Valborg or Walpurgis Night (german trad.) and it signifies that the spring time is here and summer at hand.

 

Here in Sweden we still have remnants of the old norse celebrations of the four seasons. We have the Walpurgis or Valborg celebration in the spring time (great drinking time especially for the young people and students) then there is the midsummer celebration around the summer solstice in June (great drinking time for everyone) and so on. They autumn celebration has more or less died out though some people claim there is a remnant of it in the curious celebration of the Italian saint Lucia on December 13th and then of course there is Christmas by the end of December and just a couple of days from the midwinter solstice.

 

In Sweden, Walpurgis (Valborgsmässoafton or Valborg) is one of the de facto public holidays during the year. The forms of celebration in Sweden vary in different parts of the country and between different cities. Sir James George Frazer in The Golden Bough writes that "The first of May is a great popular festival in the more midland and southern parts of Sweden. On the eve of the festival, huge bonfires, which should be lighted by striking two flints together, blaze on all the hills and knolls". One of the main traditions in Sweden is to light large bonfires, a custom which is most firmly established in Svealand, and which began in Uppland during the 18th century. An older tradition from Southern Sweden was for the younger people to collect greenery and branches from the woods at twilight, which were used to adorn the houses of the village. The expected reward for this task is to be paid in eggs.

 

The tradition which is most widespread throughout the country is probably singing songs of spring. Most of the songs are from the 19th century and were spread by students' spring festivities. The strongest and most traditional spring festivities are also found in the old university cities, like Uppsala and Lund where both current and graduated students gather at events that take up most of the day from early morning to late night on April 30, or "sista april" ("The last day of April") as it is called in Uppsala. There are also newer student traditions like the carnival parade, The Cortège, which has been held since 1909 by the students at Chalmers in Gothenburg.

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Taken on April 30, 2009