“Sköna Maj välkommen…” choral singing welcomed the arrival of spring on April 30 - Valborg, Vappu in Finnish, Walpurgis night. Spring is what we desperately need after the coldest and wettest winter and spring in recorded history. We had a very nice evening with choral singing by members of the Scandinavian Men's and Women's Choir, assisted by the enthusiastic audience. This is an evening and a time when every Swede and Finn step forward to make their voices heard and sing their hearts out... wonderful!

Then Kristi Johnson-James and Seppo Saarinen informed for the audience about Swedish Valborgsmässoafton and Finnish Vappu Celebration.

Valborgmässoafton in Sweden: April 30, marks the end of the winter in Sweden, and is the most important festive celebration of the year alongside Christmas and Midsummer. Valborgmässoafton is celebrated in Sweden in different ways, always depending on where you are in the country. Lighting large bonfires is a popular celebration in eastern parts of Sweden, where people gather material for their bonfires for months ahead. Lighting bonfires is an ancient custom related to keeping away evil spirits, demons and witches. Nowadays, however, Valborgmässafton is just seen as a celebration of springtime, but for a feel of the good old Viking days the Skansen Open‐Air museum still celebrates Stockholm's largest and most historical Valborgmässoafton celebration.
For most of the Swedes though, Valborgmässoafton just means the end of the winter season and there is no better way to celebrate it than singing spring songs. Singing songs to welcome spring is a vital part of the Swedish Valborgmässoafton celebrations, with many of the traditional songs dating from as far back as the 19th century. The most popular and traditional spring festivities are held in the old university towns of Uppsala, Lund and Gothenburg.

Vappu in Finland: In Finland Walpurgis day (Vappu) is, along with New Year's Eve and Juhannus, the biggest carnival-style festival held in the streets of Finland's towns and cities. The celebration, which begins on the evening of April 30 and continues until May 1, typically involves copious consumption of sparkling wine and other alcoholic beverages. Student traditions, particularly those of the engineering students, are also characteristic for Vappu. Since the end of the 19th century, this traditional upper-class feast has been appropriated by university students. Many graduates from lukio, and thus traditionally assumed as university students or alumni, wear a cap. Most people think the caps of the engineering students are distinguished by pom-poms hanging from them; however, nurses and some other vocational school graduates also have caps with pom-poms. One tradition is to drink sima, a home-made mead, along with freshly cooked doughnuts.
In the capital Helsinki and its surrounding region, fixtures include the capping (on April 30 at 6 pm) of the Havis Amanda, a nude female statue in Helsinki, and the biannually alternating publications of ribald matter called Äpy and Julkku, by engineering students of Aalto University School of Science and Technology

Submitted by Leif Rosqvist, Editor, New Sweden Cultural and Heritage Society, Portland, Oregon