VALBORGSMASSOAFTON (Walpurgis Night) April 30
This festival has survived from Viking days, when warriors of old celebrated an annual feast in honor of returning spring. Bonfires lighted on mountain tops were thought to frighten away demons of darkness and gloom. Today people observe the festival throughout the land by lighting fires on hills and mountain peaks in symbol of welcome to the lengthening days.
This is the night when university students at Upsala, Lund, Stockholm, and elsewhere, wear their white velvet caps for the first time, pin sprays of spring flowers in their lapels and march from their fraternity and clubhouses, singing traditional Swedish spring songs. The bonfires that blaze from every height flare dramatically against the dark sky.
In Stockholm thousands of people celebrate the festival at Skansen, the city’s outdoor museum and animal park, where the tremendous bonfire of logs and tar barrels which blazes from the top of the Reindeer Mountain, is visible for many miles.
If spring comes early many townspeople go to the country to search for the first spring flowers and spend the day out-of-doors.
The festival is named after Saint Walpurga, born in Wessex in 710. She was a niece of Saint Boniface and, according to legend, a daughter of the Saxon prince St. Richard. Together with her brothers she travelled to Franconia, Germany, where she became a nun and lived in the convent of Heidenheim, which was founded by her brother Willibald. Walpurga died on 25 February 779. She is therefore listed in the Roman Martyrology under 25 February. Her relics were transferred on 1 May, and that day carries her name in, for example, the Finnish andSwedish calendar.
Historically the Walpurgisnacht is derived from Pagan spring customs. In the Norse tradition, Walpurgisnacht is considered the “Enclosure of the Fallen”. It commemorates the time when Odin died to retrieve the knowledge of the runes, and the night is said to be a time of weakness between the living and the dead. Bonfires were built to keep away the dead and chaotic spirits that were said to walk among the living then.] This is followed by the return of light and the sun as celebrated during May Day. Due to Walpurga’s holy day falling on the same day, her name became associated with the celebrations. Early Christianity had a policy of ‘Christianising’ pagan festivals so it is no accident that St. Walpurga’s day was set to May 1st. Walpurga was honored in the same way that Vikings had celebrated spring and as they spread throughout Europe, the two dates became mixed together and created the Walpurgis Night celebration.