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It's Vappu!
by Richard Berman
2007-04-30 10:07:42
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Party, party, party, that's what the Fins do anyway. The best translation for the word 'vappu' is Labor Day, and it is the day that most people who drink in Finland are drunk. If you're not drunk, it either means you don't drink, you're working, ill, or with the children, but being with the children does not stop some: I walked past a terrace yesterday and there was a little boy, maybe five-years-old, eating his Hesburger, while his mum and dad were having a few shots and a couple of beers, but that another story.

The history of Vappu is the memorial day of Saint Labor, it is the holiday of spring, plus it is a university students and workers international festival; it is also a day for demonstrating. The Finns have celebrated Vappu since 1890.

It's a great day for workers, since you get a full day's pay, and students get to wear their funny white sailor hats. When I first saw them, I thought that Finland had some big boat race in town, but these hats are presented when they get their degree and Vappu is the only day of the year you can legitimately wear it again. One tradition that happens every year involves about 20 students hung on ropes from a crane for the capping of the Havis Amanda, a nude female statue in the centre of Helsinki.

It is one big party. Everyone heads to the nearest city on Monday afternoon and drinks until the early hours of the morning, while the under-18s hang around the streets with their friends – yes, the bars are packed.

The younger children dress up, with masks, make-up, spray cans of silly string, party poppers, and go around town looking for the festivals in the town centre. They go and collect sweets off the ground that the students had thrown from trucks moving around town. Big Balloons are also a major part, plus they are helpfully sold everywhere you go - the kids love them.

On the Tuesday morning it is a late start for some, getting over their hangover, but this is the day that you spend with your family, just like Christmas, but you go out to eat in nice restaurant. Therefore the restaurants are very busy this day, so many people plan well before where they will be eating that day. Families also go for picnics in the large parks around Finland.

I think the Finnish Government must budget the money to clean up after this night, since if you go into town early on Tuesday morning you get to see the large clean up team working hard to make the town centre nice again after the night of partying in time for the people coming back into town for lunch or picnics.

One good thing about Finland is most of the empty beer bottles give you money back from the shops when you return them, so there is always a team of people making a bit of extra cash by going around the cities on Monday night collecting.

So if you are in Finland on May 1st, get ready for the night of your life: You will never have seen anything like this before.

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