Sunday, 1 May 2011

May Day

Hauskaa Vappua! [Have a] Fun May Day!

And boy, do some Finns have fun on May Day!

The first time I was in Finland for Vappu, in 2007, I took part in the traditional celebrations in Helsinki, and was both amused and surprised by the decadence of the (normally reserved) Finns letting their hair down!

Once upon a time, so I am told, Vappu was a serious labour day celebration by working class people. But over time, students took over and now traditional Vappu celebrations essentially involve getting drunk. And I don't mean just drunk, I mean DRUNK!

In 2007, I witnessed crowds of undergraduate students (dressed in their university’s traditional boiler-suits) and ex-students (wearing their traditional graduation white caps) drinking in the streets around Esplanadi in central Helsinki, and cheering as a giant white cap was lowered by a crane onto a statue there.

Giant graduation cap being lowered onto a statue
Next the celebrations moved to Kaivopuisto, one of the oldest parks in Helsinki. The small park was absolutely packed with people having a picnic (despite the cold weather) and, well, drinking (possibly to forget the cold weather). Some people had even brought sofas, coffee tables and lamps, and were dressed in suits. Kaivopuisto is not designed to cater for such crowds however, and in particular there are no toilet facilities. Need I say more?

Crowds in Kaivopuisto
That year, Vappu also coincided with an ice-hockey world championship game between host country Russia and Finland (a thrilling game which Russia eventually won). So there was more drinking in bars that evening...

Needless to say, that after all that, Helsinki was a scene of devastation, with the aftermath of mass binge drinking in evidence everywhere.

Vappu that year also remains engraved in my memory for another reason: it was then that I committed one of my worse bloopers in the Finnish language. Instead of wishing everyone a “hauskaa vappua”, it said “hauskaa vittua” – “vittu” being a very rude word for the female genitals. Strangely, some of the men seemed quite pleased with my wishes...

1 comment:

  1. The Englishman made a similar mistake once when he complemented my mother on the quality of the vihta in her sauna...'I loved your v****' wasn't really what he meant to say.

    Lovely to have discovered your blog!

    Helena xx