Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Vappu/May Day

This coming Friday all of Finland will be shut down to celebrate Vappu. Nobody will be at work other than bartenders, pizza makers, and cops. Vappu (or May Day) begins officially on Thursday, which is Vappuaatto. The celebration will continue until the wee hours of Saturday. Vappu promises to be especially festive this year since May Day falls on a Friday. Not terribly festive for me - yours truly will be working on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

One of the culinary traditions of Vappu is that of sima and tippaleipä. Sima is a type of low-alcohol mead flavored with lemon. Tippaleipä is a form of funnelcake. Sima and tippaleipä were originally a Vappu delicacy for the early nobility and well-to-do landowners of Finland. With the advent of affordable sugar, they were adopted by the rest of the people.

Store-bought sima from Vanhan Porvoon Fabriikki. 0.8% alcohol. You can make it yourself quite easily, I just didn't get around to it. Sima recipe here.

Tippaleipä. These were made by Elonen. Tippaleipä recipe here.

Vappu in Finland has its origins in Saint Walpurga, who was an English nun and missionary to what is now Germany, where she eventually became an Abbess. She is credited with, among other things, being the first female writer of England as well as Germany.

It should be noted that before Saint Walpurga, the Germanic pagans had a goddess of fertility named Waldborga whose feast day was the 1st of May, also know as the first day of summer.

Religious tradition in Finland forbade work on the 1st of May. However according to Finnish folk tradition, Vappu was a fortuitous day to begin plowing as well for letting the cows out to pasture. It became a worker's holiday in the late 1890's. It was only in 1944 that the Finnish government passed a law making Vappu a worker's holiday.

Vappu has been a student's celebration in one form or another since the 1700's. Today it appears to belong more to the students than the workers. Anyone who has graduated from Lukio has the right to wear their white graduation cap on Mayday. Students around the country arrange various festivities.