This week, besides sitting a distressing exam, sending off my postal vote for the British general election and trawling through twitter to see if they’ll name the royal baby girl after me, I found the time to take part in a traditional Swedish festival called Valborg. Otherwise known as Walpurgis Night, each year on the 30th April, swedes come together to celebrate the arrival of spring after a long dark winter. Two rival student cities are known for truly celebrating this event; Uppsala & Lund (looking at you Dena). Since I’m in Uppsala, I’ll tell you a little about it.
So for the past week or more, there’s been a countdown positioned up on the main university library building. It’s a countdown for a specific moment at which the vice-chancellor will take off her traditional Swedish student cap and wave it to the public below from the balcony. In turn, everyone joins in at exactly 3pm with this same action with their own caps. Check out a little more about this tradition by clicking here
The student nations hold a ‘champagnegalopp’ which involves going crazy with a bottle of champagne and pouring it either over yourself or everyone else (think formula 1 champagne spray). Usually the tradition is to watch the ‘donning of the caps’ at 3, then to rush down to the nation at 3.15 and take part. Of course, the sheer volume of students present in Uppsala around this event is enormous so if you want to take part, you’re usually queueing up outside of the nation way before.
The boat race begins around 10am marked by the release of fireworks. Approximately 130 boats took part this year and these are usually made by the students. It’s amusing to see whose boat actually survives the selection of ‘mini-waterfalls’ as it sails down the River Fyris. I saw many boats ranging from a dining table, complete with food, drink and four students eating at it to the Teletubbies riding in what seemed like a rainbow. There was also an impressive Viking boat with a large number of students in it and not forgetting a boat with Khaleesi sitting on her iron throne joined by three dragons.
The city was pretty busy as far as Uppsala normally goes with stalls lining the streets and visitors everywhere. The student nations are primarily responsible for the majority of events they run, that is if you can get in/ get a ticket due to high demand. Nonetheless, Valborg is an excuse to hang out with your friends and just generally have a great time. Ekonomikum park is go-to-place for students who sit out all day on the grass and drink. Drinking in public is illegal here in Sweden but police generally don’t mind on this day. Towards the end of the day, students head to house parties dotted around the city or into the nation clubs.
My day began with meeting friends at 9.30am for the boat race. Students normally have a champagne breakfast but since I’d already had been drinking wine the night before, champagne wasn’t looking too appealing at 9am.
After that, we headed home for a BBQ since the sun had decided to show his face. As we started the fire, a relatively large group of swedes, sat not too from us, began singing in unison. I guess you could say this was a unique experience as I’ve rarely ever heard groups of people harmonise whilst tucking into their burgers – the Swedish like to sing.
Unfortunately the weather was a bit windy some of us got covered in cheese doodles and ketchup, nonetheless, the food was excellent! Of course, we all were very merry so decided to head to the play park (don’t ask) and then on to another friend’s house. Eventually we ended up at a house party and eventually back home with more friends. It was a good day but more so because of the people it was spent with. Something about this day almost feels like Christmas, it’s almost forbidden to even considering studying so people just focus on enjoying themselves guilt-free.