How to celebrate Vappu in Finland

Here in Finland we have this thing called Vappu. It’s a huge nationwide carnival that kickstarts the spring with joyful and colorful celebration on the 1st of May (or at least a week in advance if you happen to be a university student). There are many ways to celebrate Vappu, but here are a couple of good tips to get the party started!

Prepare your delicious homemade sima and doughnuts rolled in sugar. Remember to make them enough so that you’ll still have some left for the picnic on Vappupäivä, the May Day. You can have a munkki a.k.a. doughnut eating contest: who can eat a sugar doughnut without licking their lips even once? Sounds easy but is really tricky!

Find a funny hat. If you have graduated from a Finnish high school, you’ll most probably have a white(ish) hat that looks like something a sailor would wear. It’s funny enough. If you don’t have one, you can always buy a funny hat or simply buy a six-pack of beer and place the cardboard wrapping around your head. Cool as hell.

Don’t pack away you winter jacket just yet. Even though Vappu is a celebration of springtime, the weather can (and usually will) be anything but warm and nice. Therefore it’s better to be prepared for hail, snow, water, storm winds etc. (And guys, this is not a joke. As I’m writing this I’m watching the snow fall behind my windows here in Helsinki.)

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Go witness a traditional starter of Vappu celebrations, where the students put a cap on a statue’s head. All big cities have their own statues, but the most famous one is in Helsinki market square. Havis Amanda, or Manta as we call it, is a nude female statue. The poor thing is naked all around the year except on Vappu, when she gets to wear a funny hat – just like everybody else.

Plan a proper Vappu-picnic with your friends. Everybody brings good food and bubbly drinks to be shared whilst sitting on a blanket in a park with hundreds of other joyful people enjoying the lovely Finnish spring weather. Don’t forget to wear long johns and that winter jacket. To boost up your festive look you can wrap some colorful paper serpentine around your neck or by a balloon decorated with your favorite cartoon character. If you want to experience the most famous Vappu-picnic in Finland, you should head out to Ullanlinna and Kaivopuisto park in Helsinki. That’s where the Vappu magic happens!

If you forget everything above, don’t fall into despair. You can always go to Kaivopuisto and find everything you’re looking for: friends, food, bubbly, balloons and a hat someone has already lost. They surely won’t mind if you borrow it just for a little while.

Have a happy Vappu you all!

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