Every year on April 30 and May 1, Finland seems to go crazy as people celebrate May Day. Our photographers roamed the Finnish capital to record the boisterous celebration in pictures.
May 1 is Labour Day in many countries, including Finland. However, the Finns also see it as a chance to celebrate the arrival of spring, and numerous festive student traditions are also associated with the date. In fact, just about everyone gets in on the action – May Day and the preceding evening represent the biggest party of the year.
April 30 and May 1 are called Vappu in Finnish and Valborg in Swedish, which is also an official language in Finland. Walpurgis is the English word, referring to the feast of Saint Walpurga. All over Finland, people dust off their white, secondary-school graduation caps and wear them around town, and the parks are filled with picnicking partiers of all ages.
First of May frolic
Every year on April 30 in a long-held tradition, a crane lifts a group of university students so they can place a graduation cap upon the head of Havis Amanda, a landmark statue in the Finnish capital (visible beneath the crane baskets at the centre of the picture).Photo: Susanna Alatalo
On May Day and during the week leading up to it, various student groups wear customised overalls to protect their clothes – and themselves – from the wear and tear of a long stretch of partying.Photo: Leena Karppinen
Don’t get mad, get angry! An Angry Bird bobs up and down with other balloons in a vendor’s bundle.Photo: Leena Karppinen
Picnic pompom: Finns of all ages get into the festive spirit on May Day.Photo: Leena Karppinen
A clown creates balloon figures in front of Helsinki Cathedral.Photo: Leena Karppinen
Because of its association with the labour movement, May 1 is also a day for parades and political speeches.Photo: Leena Karppinen
What picnic would be complete without music and dancing?Photo: Leena Karppinen
Cheers! It’s May 1 and the sun is shining!Photo: Leena Karppinen
Balloons and bubbly: Kaivopuisto, a large seaside park in Helsinki, is blanketed with party-minded picnickers on May 1. Foto: Leena Karppinen
The art of the Finnish May Day picnic may include a tent complete with tables, chairs and a multicourse meal, for those who are not satisfied with a mere blanket on the ground.Photo: Leena Karppinen
Photos by Leena Karppinen and Susanna Alatalo
By Peter Marten