"As Helsinki’s newest resident coming from Sydney, I want to experience the real May Day, one of the country’s most recognizable and celebrated public holidays that the Finns call “vappu.” I decide to brave the heavy rain and head to the Market Square – apparently along with the rest of the citizens of the capital. It dawns on me that nothing, (not even the rain) can dampen people’s spirits on vappu. The place is packed and buzzing with boozing energy. Looking around, virtually every adult holds an iconic white high-school graduation hat – a nod to Finland’s world-renowned education system and highly educated population." - The correspondent of Finlandtoday reports.
How Finns celebrate May Day this year
As the clock strikes 18:00, an elaborate and zany tradition takes place whereby an elected group of university students in bright green jumpsuits are lifted into the air by a crane (yes, this is real life) and place a white graduation hat on the head of Manta. This signals the start of the vappu festivities. Almost instantaneously, hats move from hands to heads and the streets of Helsinki are taken over by a sea of white hats, serpentines and the sound of clinking glasses.
People are everywhere, as if the whole population came out of hibernation just to attend this event. It’s a kind of welcome chaos from the usually well-behaved Helsinki. There are university students in multi-colored jumpsuits (which are apparently “party uniforms” – kids and elderly, and of course the keen partygoers. - says in the text.
As the night crawls on, I find myself at Uunisaari, a very small island near the Kaivopuisto area, talking to a guy who claims to be a “Vappu Veteran.” “The most seasoned vappu goers won’t stop till sunrise,” he tells me. Challenge accepted. As we party on to the early hours of the morning, it becomes clear that the Finns are closet party animals with an unhindered love for life – it just takes a little liquid courage to let it out.
For locals, it is a time to gather with friends and family, welcome the summertime and absolutely let loose. But what is it like for an Australian experiencing all of this for the first time? It would be better to say it’s the Nordic version of “Carnivale” – big, bold and colorful, with much more boozing and a whole lot of messy fun.