Walpurgis Night – Welcome, fair May

Tonight is Walpurgis night, or Valborg, and as my friend and fellow Uppsala expat said, you never miss Uppsala more than on Walpurgis night. Today is the day we celebrate spring, and the arrival of May.

All over Sweden bonfires are lit, fireworks set of and songs praising spring sung. People have their first barbecue of the year. Teenagers get mindnumbingly drunk. Nothing, however, rivals the celebrations in university towns, and specifically the ones in Uppsala.

The day starts early with a champagne breakfast, and then it’s time to make your way into the town centre and the Fyrisån river. Here, people congregate to watch imaginatively dressed students manoeuver imaginative, home-made rafts down the stream. Hopefully some of them fall in the river as well.


After that you have a few options. You can go to the Ekonomikum park with thousands of others, listen to live music, have a picnic and drink. You could go to one of the nations for a herring lunch. You can attend the donning of the student caps at the Carolina Rediviva library, and after that take part in one of the Champagne Races down the hill, into one of the nations where you will be sprayed with sticky alcohol. Whichever you choose, be prepared for drunkenness.

In the evening (after an optional nap) the partying continues, privately and in student clubs. Some might want to go see the bonfires, fireworks and choir out in Old Uppsala. Either way, you can imagine the exhaustion at the end of the day (night), especially considering many people start their celebrations the day before, in an event called Kvalborg (a play on the words kval, qualifying, and Valborg). Yours truly usually collapses long before it’s decent, owing to quite a low stamina for partying. However, students in general are much more hardy than I am and actually finish up their partying the day after with Finalborg, the final instalment of Valborg. I salute their durability and bravery!

I considered setting fire to a bush and spending my day drinking in the garden on my own, but settled on listening to traditional songs and going for a nice evening walk instead. Hopefully I’ll be back in Uppsala next year!


2 thoughts on “Walpurgis Night – Welcome, fair May

  1. used to work together with some Swedish people and once we organised a summer solstice party on the sandy river bank. It was fairly wet and coldish, despite that, it was one of the best celebrations i remember, we had schnaps and sang swedish songs reading from a sheet. Years on, I still have that song sheet hanging somewhere… next time, give me a shout and maybe we can meet up!

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