Swedish Language Blog

Valborgsmässoafton Posted by on Apr 30, 2009 in Culture

It’s April 30th and we all know what that means in Sweden – it’s Valborgsmässoafton or Valborg. In English this celebration is better known as Walpurgis.

This year it also marks the start of a really long weekend. Tomorrow – Friday is Första Maj (May Day), then come Saturday and Sunday, and the world will return to work as we know it on Monday.

But let’s talk about Valborg for a second. This holiday is observed not only in Sweden, but also in other Nordic countries, as well as in some parts of Germany. Of course, as with most ancient celebrations in Europe, this one has pagan roots, as well. And while I’m not sure how Valborg is celebrated in other parts of Europe, I do know how Swedes celebrate it.

As with everything else in Sweden, there are many regional varieties of Valborg festivities. One tradition, however, that remains the same throughout the country is the lighting of huge bonfires. People gather around the fire, sing songs and consume copious amounts of alcohol. Technically, the songs are supposed to be about the coming of spring, but in reality, what I’m hearing from the outside, is just a general merry singing of people having a good time. My neighbors are grilling, and the smell of sausages is making me very hungry.

The largest bonfire in our town is constructed by the university students on a field in front of one of the buildings.

Here’s a short video of a very dignified Valborg celebration in 2007 with the local student choir providing the entertainment portion of the festivities.

Tomorrow we have a couple of May Day demonstrations in town, and somehow I suspect that with the current economic crisis, there will be more participants on the streets than in the previous years. So, I better look up the lyrics to “Internationalen” (The Internationale), because last year I was mouthing them in French. And what was I doing at a May Day demonstration? The weather was nice, the sun was shining and it was such a shame to stay cooped up at home.

Have a wonderful long weekend! See you on Monday!

PS. Today is also the king’s birthday. Grattis, Carl Gustaf!

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  1. John Eastlund:

    I was in Sweden 5 years ago and went to a bonfire. Someone told me it was something like Spring cleaning. People would pile old broken furniture and whatever other junk they want
    ed to get rid of into the fire..

  2. Luke (Sydney):

    I think bonfire is a ritual invented long before we were buried in unwanted furnitures 😉