Walpurgis Night (“Valborgsmässoafton”) on April 30 is a traditional spring celebration in Sweden. For students, it’s a foretaste of summer. At dusk, bonfires are lit and people gather to listen to speeches and songs welcoming spring and a brighter future. In Gothenburg, you can choose from several different traditional celebrations.

Another classic Gothenburg way to celebrate Walpurgis is by visiting inside the 150-year-old beached whale at the Gothenburg Natural History Museum. The mounted whale is only open to visitors on special days: on the eve of Walpurgis and on election day every four years (election as well as whale is “val” in Sweden).

Walpurgis – the students’ night

Walpurgis is an important part of student life in Sweden, where it marks the approaching end of the academic year. In Gothenburg, students from various associations gather in the park Trädgårdsföreningen where they listen to live music and put on their hats together. There is also a large caravan called Cortègen that makes its way through the city every Walpurgis night since 1909. The carriages feature self-made vehicles and other entertaining constructions with shows performed on top of the trucks. Every year, hundreds of thousands of locals gather in the city centre to watch the parade.

Flowers for a cause

Wondering why everyone suddenly has a little paper flower on their coat? Majblomman, the Mayflower, is a charity tradition dating back to 1907 that was founded in Gothenburg by a woman named Beda Hallberg. Originally collecting money for people suffering of tuberculosis, the Mayflower organisation now focusses on fighting child poverty.

The flowers are sold by school children and various associations from mid-April and come in a new colour every year. Look around and you’ll see plenty of them by the Walpurgis bonfire!