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Walpurgis Night: Singing by firelight

Choral singing is a favorite pastime in Sweden, and now is when almost every singer in the country makes his voice heard.


ValborgWalpurgis Night: Singing by firelight.
The evening of April 30 - when almost every singer, and everyone else, in Sweden makes his or her voice heard.

Valborgskren, Ume University: Skna Maj Vlkommen...

Bonfires are lit, on beaches, on hilltops, in parks and on private properties and when the crackling of the fire is at its height, a number of people, often men, step forward, many of them wearing peaked caps with white tops (resembling the high school graduates caps). The group proceeds to sing a number of songs, usually the same every year and all over the country and maintain that the evening marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring.

The singing becomes even more organized on May First, "Frsta Maj" when student and men's choirs gather on university steps and in parks all over the country. Events you don't want to miss right now, check www.nordstjernan.com/calendar

There's an American organization of Swedish singers, read more here; www.nordstjernan.com/news/organizations/915/ or visit the organization's website www.auss.org

An earlier year's celebration in Oregon: Valborg - Vappu Night and in Michigan: Valborg in Michigan and, to find a celebration near you, see Nordstjernan Events Calendar

The day after, May First, is the only non-religious holiday in Sweden.

Choral singing is a late addition to the ancient practice of gathering around a fire on the evening before May Day, and probably derives from the manner in which students in Uppsala and Lund have been celebrating the arrival of spring for two centuries. But the bonfire goes back further than that. In Sweden and many other countries, the lighting of bonfires one evening in spring was an ancient custom and it is a moot point among scholars whether this was done to scare off predators before the cattle and sheep were put out to graze, or whether there was some supernatural, magical purpose involved. For example Germans sought to protect themselves against the witches once again gathering on this very night, Walpurgis Night, to worship the devil. The Swedish custom is descended from the virulent Walpurgis fires of north Germany, and since most early German immigrants were found in Stockholmand surroundings, this is where the custom first took root. Other parts of Sweden had other bonfire evenings, such as Easter, but the capital city, of course, sets the tone and so the bonfires have now fallen in line with the Stockholm way of doing things.


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