I continue to be so charmed by Vappu. This might have been my favorite Vappu so far, save one aspect (I’ll get to that later). The sun seemed to be especially shiny, the people especially jovial, the river especially sparkly, and the May 1 picnic especially lazy. And yet, I still couldn’t really tell you what this holiday is about, exactly? I have read the Wikipedia article and asked the Finns and observed the rituals…and yet. I think the problem is that I can’t think of any equivalent American holiday. I know Labor Day comes closest but the traditions there are not quite as entrenched (or communal, or jovial) as the Vappu traditions here. It’s a little bit Fourth of July (the picnics), a little bit Mardis Gras (the public merry-making), a little bit Thanksgiving (the sitting around and eating)? Regardless, it’s completely charming.
On Vappu Eve, we watched the hat-putting-on festivities downtown, and marched over to the statue of Lilja to observe the traditional cleaning with a giant toothbrush. We waited for a bus that never came and then walked along the river until we found another way home. On Vappu itself - a work and school holiday - we went on a bike ride, ate store-bought mead (sima) and store-bought doughnuts, and played mölkky in the park with friends. It was perfect.
My one complaint is that this year, for the first time since I’ve lived in Finland, Vappu was not the first nice day after winter! It started being sunny and warm two weeks ago. Until this year, Vappu was the first time I felt like I really saw people out and about after winter. This year…well, let’s just say the season for sunbathing and eating ice cream cones while out on a walk started as soon as it hit 15C in mid-April.
I felt a little bit cheated to not have Vappu be The Beginning of Life After Winter but I’ll manage!