Walpurgis Night, or Valborg in Swedish, is one of the year’s major holidays in Sweden, coming as it does just as spring is starting to get a proper grip on much of the country.
On this night, large bonfires are still lit in many areas of the country, particularly in the regions of Svealand and Uppland, and families gather around these “majbrasor”, or May Fires, to listen to choirs, join in the singing, and celebrate. The traditional function of this was to ward off predators before releasing livestock for grazing, and also to protect against the evil witches at large on this night.
As with many festivals and events in Sweden, singing is an integral part of Valborg. These spring songs were popularized and spread by the student communities, and the strongest Valborg traditions still remain in the country’s two oldest universities, Lund in the south and Uppsala, just to the north of Stockholm. From early in the morning until late into the night, white-capped students will be celebrating the last day of April, “sista April” and singing to welcome the spring. Elsewhere in the country, other student traditions have grown up on the back of Valborg, including the Cortège carnival parade in Gothenburg.
The tradition of Valborg originates in the Walpurgis Nacht evening of feasting in Germany, and commemorates Walburga, an 8th century German abbess. In the Middle Ages, the end of April marked the end of the administrative year, with festivities for the merchants and artisans. For farmers and village-dwellers, this day was also important, as this was when the annual village meeting was held.
For a taste of Sweden on Valborg night, listen to one of the most popular Valborg songs: Vintern Rasat (“The winter has fallen”)
Why not try singing along with the text below?
Vintern rasat ut bland våra fjällar,
drivans blommor smälta ned och dö.
Himlen ler i vårens ljusa kvällar,
solen kysser liv i skog och sjö.
Snart är sommarn här i purpurvågor,
ligga ängarne i dagens lågor,
och i lunden dansa källorne.
Ja, jag kommer! Hälsen, glada vindar,
ut till landet, ut till fåglarne,
att jag älskar dem, till björk och lindar,
sjö och berg, jag vill dem återse,
se dem än som i min barndoms stunder
följa bäckens dans till klarnad sjö,
trastens sång i furuskogens lunder,
vattenfågelns lek kring fjärd och ö.
The Nature Travels Team