Friday, April 30, 2010
Where to begin an explanation of Vappu? Compare the scene in Turku last evening to any other day in Turku and you might not believe you were in the same town. The streets were full of happy, tipsy, hat-wearing people. Did I mention happy? Will told me that people would start to smile once the trees were in bud, but Vappu has caused an early epidemic of smiling.
Vappu is the Finnish celebration of May Day. Vappu is a woman's name and the name day for Vappu is May 1.
Vappunaatto: the evening before Vappu
The celebration starts in the afternoon of April 30 with a ceremony organized by the student organizations of the universities. We went to the celebration organized by Turun Yliopiston Ylioppilaskunta (the Student Union of the Univ. of Turku). The celebration was entitled TYYlikäs vappu--more clever Finnish word fun. TYY are the initials of the student union and tyylikäs means elegant.
Holding white hats and bottles of bubbly 10,000 or more people gathered at the Art Museum and down the hill in the road. The student union representatives were the only people allowed to wear their hats before the official word was given. There was singing by a chorus and then a rousing speech that ended with the official command to don your white hats. Simultaneously the champagne corks popped and the crowd began moving slowly towards the river.
We were there with Niina and Antti. Niina had a bottle of her Sima with her. Sima is a special drink for Vappu celebrations. I will post a recipe in a separate post.
At the river is a statue of woman known as Lilja. It is common for Vappu festivities to include the hatting of a female statue. In Helsinki it is Havis Amanda who gets a hat. In Pori, the main statue is of a bear, but fortunately biologists have concluded that the bear statue is female. So she gets a hat on vappunaatto.
First the dentistry students were lifted to Lilja on a crane and they sung a song to Lilja while brushing her teeth, and other parts, with a giant toothbrush. Then two student union presidents were lifted in the crane. They addressed her in Finnish and English, in spoken word and song. One speaker explained that Vappu is originally a celebration of the workers, but with the economy doing so poorly there are fewer workers. They put a large ylioppilashattu on her head where it remained for a second before thrown into the crowd. Antti explained that this is very Finnish--the hat was taken off after a token second to prevent anyone climbing on the statue and damaging her in the quest for the hat.
We walked home through town marveling at the happy, bubbly crowd.
You can read more about Vappu in this Helsingin Sanomat article.
Pictures from the top:
Chris and Sophia in front of the taidemuseo
The student organization flags
The waiting crowd
A flock of history students in their black capes
Brushing Lilja's teeth
Enjoying the evening
The banks of the Aura