...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Trees in bloom

... in more ways than one!

Yesterday was rainy and gray, so we watched the Valborg (Walpurgis Night, witches' sabbath) festivities from our balcony, where these fireworks pictures were taken. The trees looked like they were in bloom – and in fact, they're really starting to bloom too, with leaf buds – which I thought was an appropriate image for this pre-Catholic spring festival.

The festivities, which are practiced all over northern Europe, involve the lighting of a big fire (like this one from an entry 3 years ago), using old twigs, leaves and branches that have fallen through autumn and winter. People gather around the fire as if it were a big campfire, enjoying its warmth in the chilly spring night. According to the old practice, the fire would ward away the evil spirits and witches. In the Christianized tradition, the festivities were linked to St. Walpurga, a lesser-known saint who apparently has the honor of being the patron saint of (and I kid you not): people affected with rabies. Burning witches? Curing rabies? Same, same!

We could see the fire from where we stood, but it wasn't as interesting in the the fireworks show that came later. Other events happen throughout the day, depending on where you live, are carnivals, choir singing or contests (Norrköping had an urban orienteering event). Some people also wear their student hats, a tradition from the time when people used to wear hats to show their status or occupation. And in general, people are merry. Valborg is another spring sign, after all. It's a tradition Swedes need to remind themselves that we are getting close to the better times, the lighter times, and the warmer times. Trees are in bloom!


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