Today is valborg in Sweden! (30th of april every year)
It’s kind of a love or hate day for most people.
As a child, valborg meant my parents’ friends coming to our house and a bonfire. My dad has two gardening occupations which he loves – cutting trees (preferably with the chainsaw) and setting fire to all the branches and old leaves. Preferably wearing his lumberjack jacket. It must be the northerner in him.
But in Sweden you can’t just set fire to things anywhere and anytime you want – so valborg is the day when it is okay to have a bonfire in your garden. There are also big bonfires and events in big parks that families go to as well.
Well, we never did. We grilled sausages on sticks in the bonfire and the grown ups drank wine and everyone would stay up until late into the night.
As we got older, my older brothers started to want to spend the day on the town with their friends. Valborg is notorious for drinking and partying and many many teenagers get alcohol poisoning or are drunk for the first time on this day. This is because valborg is also kind of a street festival with thousands of people gathering in the parks to grill and drink, so alcohol is extremely easy to get a hold of. Quite commonly Swedish teenagers also steal alcohol from their parents. My oldest brother for example, would steal vodka and replace it with water. This was not his most clever move as 1. you can obviously taste it (ruining good vodka as well as stealing it can only make parents twice as angry). 2. Water expands when you put it in the freezer. Vodka does not. A broken frozen vodka-bottle can only mean one thing.
Valborg is probably more than anything a student holiday. Growing up in Gothenburg, my first valborg without my parents was spent the typical Gothenburg way. Chalmers (famous Gothenburg school for civil engineers) have a big parade called “Cortegen”, which they prepare for all year and both families and youths go to watch.
So you drink and watch Cortegen. Once you’re bored of the parade or have seen it all, you go to the park and drink or you go to someones house and drink. Usually there’s also grilling involved. If you’re on the streets, you’ll never have seen Swedes this social. It’s really a bit like a huge free festival, and can be lots of fun!
But with all that alcohol involved, it does go wrong. The police have probably their busiest day of the whole year on valborg.
The “real” student valborg is celebrated in Lund and Uppsala which have extensive traditions of “harring lunch”, “putting on your hat and running down Karolina hill” and such things.
I’ve never experienced any specific valborg tradition in Stockholm, except for grilling in the park and having people over for dinner. So if you’d like to see the crazyness I’d recommend gathering some friends and taking the train to Uppsala (takes 40 minutes, costs about 90 sek).
If you don’t like alcohol and can’t stand people being drunk and doing stupid things, I’d recommend staying away from any Swedish town on this day.
Best of all with valborg though – 1st of may is a “red day” = day off.
Labour day (tomorrow) the people who aren’t too hungover or just has enough dedication anyway, will be protesting with signs on the streets and politicians will come and give speeches in designated areas.