April 30th might just be a normal day to the rest of the world, but to the Swedes, this mythical, traditional and fun day is called: Valborgsmässoafton.

This old Swedish tradition is celebrated by lighting large bonfires, singing spring-themed songs, fireworks, and for the youngsters, partying it up a bit. As with many Swedish traditions, we celebrate them punctually and tirelessly, but not all Swedes can tell you exactly why they celebrate these days religiously. Read on to learn why Swedes celebrate Valborg.

The Valborg tradition originated from Germany originally and was introduced in Sweden during the middle ages. Saint Walpurga, an abbess at a monastery during the 700s, was declared a saint on May 1 during the 1400s. She was since then always celebrated on the first of May by the Germans, originally calling the holiday “Walpurgisnacht”. The name, Walpurgis, inspired the Swedes to name the holiday, Valborg.

Heliga Valborg
Sankta Walpurgis. Photo credit: Johnny Chicago/Wikimedia

Why do Swedes light bonfires and fireworks?

There is more than one theory about this: The most famous one being that May 1 was considered the day evil creatures from hell, such as witches, would be closer than usual. Therefore, people would light big bonfires in the hopes that it would frighten the witches and satanic creatures away. Another theory claims that it originated from a time when people were forbidden to ring the church bells. In order to gather together, they would light large bonfires instead.

Photo credit: skansen.se

Nowadays, in Sweden, we celebrate Valborg to welcome the start of spring. The day also happens to fall on the same day as our king Carl XVI Gustaf’s birthday, which is a celebration in itself.

“Glad Valborg”, Happy Birthday to our king and welcome spring!


This article was originally published on April 30, 2018. 



Johanna Skytt

Editor at Swedes in the States
Johanna Skytt is originally from Linköping, she moved to Los Angeles 2016 to study Business & Management of Entertainment and Producing.

She travels as often as she can and has previously lived on the Greek island Cyprus. When she has a free day she loves to explore LA, go to farmers market and watch movies.
Johanna Skytt
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