A large bonfire on Riddarholmen, Stockholm, with a view of the City Hall and the water. A large crowd stands around the fire.

The real end of winter is, in short, what the Swedes celebrate with the bonfires on Valborg. The weather can be changeable and cold until April. From May onwards they look forward to summer days. It is an age-old tradition (although it is increasingly coming under pressure due to the climate crisis and in some places it some years is not allowed to due to the risk of forest fires).

In 2019 I attended a Valborg celebration for the first time. It was a special experience. The torchlight procession started in Gamla Stan, the Old Town of Stockholm, and led us to the bonfire on Riddarholmen. Around the fire and in the streets people sang songs. What an atmosphere!

What’s in a name?

Valborg is the abbreviation of Valborgsmässoafton. It is also an old Scandinavian name for saint Walpurga or Valborg.

Valborg takes place on April 30, on the eve of May 1. Two parties on this day as April 30 also happens to be the Swedish King’s birthday!

Since the Middle Ages, April 30 has also been the end of the fiscal year for merchants.

What do we celebrate on Valborg?

They used to celebrate Valborg to herald the beginning of the growing season. With this event they wanted to scare away evil, such as witches and bad spirits. They did this by lighting large fires and making a lot of noise. In this way they thought that the land would be cleansed of the dry and dead winter.

Nowadays Valborg is about celebrating spring, the month of May means stable, warmer and sunnier weather. Something everyone looks forward to!

How do the Swedes celebrate Valborg?

Valborg is a big thing, especially in the two major university cities, Uppsala and Lund. Here you will find the student version of Valborg. Your day is guaranteed to be filled with music, joviality and lots of drinks!

The majority of Swedes celebrate Valborg in a traditional way: with a crowd around a bonfire. With a bit of luck you will experience an experience where they sing odes to spring with their Valborg beer in hand.

For the Swedes, these folk songs give a nostalgic feeling and remind them that the Swedish summer is coming.

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