Vappu

Hello again, boys and girls! It's been a while, hasn't it? By way of apology, today I'm going to be giving you a full exposé on the Finnish holiday of Vappu--the inside scoop, if you will.

Vappu is kind of a big deal here. It lands on May 1st, which coincides with International Workers' Day, a.k.a Labor Day, a.k.a May Day. Finland, keeping with the rest of the Nordic countries, has a much stronger collectivist tradition than most western countries. It takes workers' rights pretty seriously (I even belong to a union! Me, a software programmer! Imagine that.).

Vappu also just so happens to line up with the time of year when the weather finally begins to turn, and people can begin going outside without first girding themselves in multiple layers of clothing. This combination of holiday and warm weather has a curious effect on the Finnish psyche. It's not entirely dissimilar to what you might expect of someone who's snowed in inside a tiny cabin all winter when they finally see the sun.

The result: Tuomiokirkko covered in people

...and if we go just down the street:

Looking back at tuomiokirkko

Now, to be fair, I am taking these pictures right in the middle of one of the most celebrated traditions of Vappu: the crowning of Havis Amanda.

Meet Miss Amanda.

Havis Amanda

We'll come back to her in a moment.

Now, Vappu happens to coincide with high school graduation for much of the country. As is the tradition in much of the world, graduation is signified by silly hats. High school grads here have some of the better silly hats, in my opinion.

Vappu cappu

Back to Lady Amanda. Every year on Vappu day, she condescends to join the unwashed masses and, in a show of breathtaking solidarity, dons the graduation cap. It is a moment of great solemnity and reverence. Tears are shed, and parents, in hushed voice, beseech their children to remember this moment.

...naw, I'm messing with you. It started as a student prank, and everybody just decided to roll with it.

Bunch of people on top of a bus stop

Apparently, each year, one of the local technical universities gets the honor of actually putting the hat on Miss Amanda. These pictures are from 2015, and that year,they decided to fly it in...in style.

Dude piloting the hat Hat on a string

The statue itself was surrounded by a ring of students suspended in midair, who carefully shepherded the hat into its proper place. Suspended, so that they didn't damage the statue, and so that the crowd may be entertained.

Suspended hat people

Would you look at that! The hat has been successfully placed, and now we rest easy, knowing that Havis Amanda has once again been behattened!

Havis goes gangsta

Nope. Their work is almost immediately undone, and in the true spirit of the tradition, a student pranks the world by putting an even sillier hat onto a statue--a beanie.


But Vappu is not just about statues and silly hats. It is also about sugary donuts, a kind of delicious mead-soda, and enjoying some sun after the long, dark winter. The anticipation in the week leading up to Vappu is almost palpable. When it finally arrives, it's almost like a starting gun, and people take it as a signal that they can finally, finally take off their damn scarves.