While my hometown of Annapolis, Maryland celebrates May Day with a flower basket-making contest, Sweden celebrates a bit differently – by lighting enormous bonfires throughout the country, burning any remnants of winter and welcoming spring at long last.
This celebration is called Valborgsmässoafton, or Valborg for short. The holiday is celebrated in many countries throughout Northern Europe, and is named after the English missionary Saint Walpurga, who was cannonized on May 1. The day falls exactly 6 months before Halloween.
It’s difficult to fully appreciate how welcomed this Valborg holiday is if you don’t live through the long winter that overtakes Sweden each year. I understand it even more so after my 2nd winter, which felt longer than the first.
Valborg marks the beginning of the season not only of warmth but of light. As I write this post, it is 9:45pm and the sky is not fully dark yet. Each day the sun is rising earlier and setting later than the day before, culminating on June 21 when the sky is dark for only a couple hours. There is an energy that comes over Stockholm at this time of year, and I am so thankful it is finally here… still, I won’t be surprised if we get another snow shower before it’s really summer. But at least we’re almost there!