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14 May, 2020

Valborg: the What, the Why, and the How

Valborgmässoafton, a.k.a Walpurgis Night – in English, falls on the 30th of April (last day). All major cities within Sweden celebrate Valborg annually. It is one of the look-forward-to days on the Swedish calendar. If the city has a University then at a 99% confident interval, it will have a special event for it.

But why?

Like with many other ‘big’ days in Sweden, it is the evening before that counts most. For students in Sweden, April 30th is so important because the school term is soon ending. For employees, many workplaces offer a half working day. Whichever way it is, it marks the end of winter, the start of spring and the hope of summer.

How it usually is

Valborgmässoafton literally translates to ‘Valborgs fair evening’ and -as you may have not guessed- different cities celebrate it differently. It is not a one-size-fits-all even though there are commonalities, obviously. It is celebrated with bonfires and singing traditional songs, laughing away the winter while giving props to the spring season. One may argue that ‘sometimes April looks like summer’. Well, let’s keep conserving the environment because it was never the case in earlier years.

To exemplify with two of the cities that mean Sweden to me:

Gothenburg (Göteborg)

The main (or most interesting) event is planned and organised as a carnival, Chalmerscortègen, by the students of Chalmers University. The planning takes more than a month with a lot of work within the parking area. The same one song plays on replay, minute after minute, week after week. Anyway, this is a must-watch as several exhibitions drive-by on trucks along the streets of Gothenburg. There is a lot of fun and humour derived from events and occurrences from the past 12 months, worldwide.

Valborg in Gothenburg
Photo: J Mukama, Valborg at Götaplatsen, Gothenburg, 2016

Lund

There is a carnival in Lund but it is so precious that they organise it only once in 4 years. For Valborg, the city organises traditional music shows and historical tellings about the event, in the city’s main park, Stadsparken. It gets more interesting in this predominantly student city, that it goes without saying that beer – öl (learn this word) – is a very important ingredient of the celebrations. In fact öl -beer is where the heart is on Valborg. There are pre-parties on the day before, the morning of the day, during the event and after. Anyway, the evening wraps up with a massive bonfire.

Valborg in Lund
Photo: J Mukama, Valborg at Lunds Stadsparken, 2019

And after the Valborgmässoafton?

Like many other events that involve a good amount of beer, it is a ‘what-happens-in-Vegas-stays-in-Vegas‘ kind of thing. People go to bars or have corridor parties.

How it was under COVID-19 crisis

All gatherings of more than 50 people are banned due to the COVID-19. Nevertheless, as other cities managed to silently cancel the celebrations, one student city made it to the international news. Though not for the academic rankings of its university instead for the expert, highly educated and researched approach to prevent anyone from making it to the usual celebration grounds. Lund city littered the entire park with chicken manure – hönsgödselto prevent any gathering at the park – and it worked.

Closing remarks

If you are in Sweden during April, engage yourself in the traditional events. The fun activities are not exclusive to the Swedes but to everyone. Come hum-along the songs you do not know, and learn a few lines from the chorus. Have fun.


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Joseph Mukama
Kodheyo banna! Joseph here. I moved some years back to Gothenburg for studies from Uganda, the 'Pearl of Africa' located in East Africa. I later moved to Lund/Malmö for work. I am married, and I love meeting people, nature, and physical activities. I like to read books and try out new things. My favourite Swedish word is beroendeframkallande. Hoping to share interesting moments with you all.

10 Comments on “Valborg: the What, the Why, and the How

Mattias A
15 May, 2020 at 15:25

Great explanatory text!

Joseph Mukama
18 May, 2020 at 08:22

Thanks Mattias.

Dianah Gowa
15 May, 2020 at 16:29

Great write up!

But how do you pronounce that your favorite Swedish word, and what does it mean?

Joseph Mukama
18 May, 2020 at 08:17

Thanks Dianah. You need to emphasize the vowels and hit the tones right 😀

Francesca
15 May, 2020 at 22:13

Thanksfor this enriching and insightful article.

We miss you here in Uganda.

Joseph Mukama
18 May, 2020 at 08:23

I am coming home, coming home, tell the world that I am coming home. Ping you in good time.

Dianah Gowa
23 May, 2020 at 14:24

What does it mean? My favorite is Sjuksköterska.

Joseph Mukama
24 May, 2020 at 23:37

Addictive it is.

Daniel D
17 May, 2020 at 14:34

Interesting write-up of the festivities around Valborg. And yes, I’ve learnt a new word too – “beroendeframkallande”!

Joseph Mukama
18 May, 2020 at 08:25

Thanks Doc, you taught me well. Now its symbiotic.

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