May Eve / Walpurgisnacht

Waluburgis Night (Valborgsmassoafton in Swedish, Vappu in Finnish, Walpurgisnacht in German) is a holiday celebrated on April 30, in Finland, Sweden and Germany.

It is named after a woman called “Valborg” (alternative spellings are “Walpurgis”, “Wealdburg”, or “Valderburger”) born in 710 somewhere in Dorset / Wessex as a niece of Saint Boniface. Together with her brothers she later travelled to Württemberg, Germany where she became a nun and lived in the convent of Heidenheim, which was founded by her brother Wunibald. Valborg died on February 25, 779 and that day still carries her name in the Catholic calendar. However she wasn’t made a saint until May 1 in the same year, and that day carries her name in the Swedish calendar.
Viking fertility celebrations took place around April 30 and due to Valborg being declared a saint at that time of year, her name became associated with the celebrations. Valborg was worshipped in the same way that Vikings had celebrated spring and as they spread through out Europe the two dates became mixed together and created the Valborg celebration.

Waluburgis is one of the main holidays during the year in both Sweden and Finland, alongside of Yule and Midsummer. One of the main traditions is to light large bonfires, and for the younger people to collect greens and branches from the woods at twilight, which were used to adorn the houses of the village. The expected reward for this task to be paid in eggs.

The tradition which is most spread throughout the country is probably singing songs of spring. The strongest and most traditional spring festivities take up most of the day from early morning to late night on April 30.

Historically the Walpurgisnacht is derived from heathen spring customs, where the arrival of spring was celebrated with bonfires at night. With the Christianization of Germany these old customs were condemned as heathen.

No true Germanic Heathen name survives for May Eve; the German Walpurgisnacht is derived from the well-documented Christian St. Walpurga. In order to avoid confusion, and because no better name survives, Many Germanic heathens have replaced ‘Walpurga’ with the name of the second-century Germanic seeress ‘Waluburg’. This festival marks the beginning of summer in Scandinavia. In all the Germanic countries, it is seen as a time when witches are particularly active, a belief memorialized in Goethe’s description of the witch-moot on the Brocken (Faust, Act I) and Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain”. It is also the Germanic equivalent of Valentine’s Day and a night of love: young men are expected to go out into the woods to gather green branches and wildflowers with which they decorate the windows of their beloveds. For both these reasons, Heathens consider Freya to be the ruler of this festival, as she is mistress of both witchcraft and love. The traditional ‘Maypole’ or ‘May Tree’ is also a part of the celebration of this feast; in Scandinavia, the ‘May Tree’ is carried about in processions, a practice which probably goes back to the Vanic fruitfulness-procession of earliest Heathen times. Fires were kindled on grave mounds or other high places on this night; it is traditional for folk to leap through the flames for luck. A fire kindled by friction (the ‘need-fire’) might also be used to protect cattle against illness or cure them.

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The official celebration of Spring. The Covid lockdown has led the Swedish government to shut down Valborgsmassoafton and the German government to shut down Walpurgisnacht and any Maypole celebrations. These are traditional cerebrations that many are sad about missing. I plan on on lighting some candles and having some Hefeweizen.

Many people, even though ostensibly Christian, still celebrate this time of time of the year. I am curious how members of our Religion channel observe or celebrate this time of holiday? Please share…