Happy Walpurgisnacht


“Ah, it’s May Eve”, I wrote last year, “Almost anywhere else on the planet this would not be so very significant, but in Finland it means “Vappu”, a kind of Finnish “Mardi Gras meets the Rite of Spring”, with some historical political overtones and a strong youth and student flavouring. With the time difference, the party has been underway for awhile and will carry on into May Day tomorrow”.

I’m not sure if other European countries make this an official holiday, but In Finland it’s a long weekend, with the spring carnival-like celebrations starting the eve of Vappu, May Day, or Walpurgisnacht and continuing into May Day tomorrow.

Because I came to Canada as a young child, I don’t remember the Vappu celebrations in Finland but did hear the stories. Here in Canada, May Day is not a significant holiday, but our very small Finnish community had our own family-centred celebrations based around the traditional food and drink, especially sima and tippaleipää. The recipes at this link look similar to the ones my mother used.

My mother made sima (pronounced see-mah) for Vappu and even much of the summer, for it’s like a sparkling lemonade suitable for the whole family. It’s low in alcohol, with only a smidge of yeast for fermenting. Raisins are added to the fermenting sugar and lemon mixture, when they rise to the surface the sima is ready. As a child I was always fascinated watching the raisins begin to float to the surface, and enjoyed these swollen fruits along with the delicious drink.

Tippaleipä (literally translated as drip bread) is similar to doughnuts but crispier because the batter is dripped into hot oil in circles to create a nest. Yum! I think it’s been decades since I’ve had sima and tippaleipää but I still remember the tastes – the taste of childhood memories.

Hauskaa Vappua, Happy May Day, Happy Walpurgisnacht! Bonne FĂȘte du Muguet! (the reason for the photo of our just-opening lily- of-the-valley)

PS. I’ve been hoping someone would blog about May Day as International Worker’s Day – Dave at Via Negativa has written an excellent one, while baking bread!

April 30, 2006 in Culture, Current Events, Finland, Estonia & Finno-Ugric by Marja-Leena