On the last day in April, the entire country of Finland celebrates one special holiday that is dedicated to all the young Finns that have escaped from the confines of the public school system. This country-wide graduation party comes right before Finnish Labor Day and often continues from one day into the next. Though every place celebrates the Vappu festival, the biggest and the best by far takes place in the country’s capital, Helsinki.
The events start at around 6pm when tens-of-thousands of people gather around the city’s statue of Havis Amanda. Students come to the statue and then whichever school has been chosen that year has the honor of performing the ritual washing of this piece of art. After the washing is done, a white cap - the symbol of graduation for Finnish students - is placed upon the statue’s head and the party begins with a round of champagne bottles being opened.
The streets then fill with people celebrating, both young and old, everyone wearing a white cap. While it means newfound freedom for students, for older folks it is more a symbol of solidarity. As the crowds roam the streets they drink plenty of mead and
The party keeps going all night and frequently into the next morning as festival-goers fill up clubs, bars and numerous house parties. This later partying is primarily for the younger crowd, the adults choosing instead to get some sleep that night. The next day, Labor Day, consists of one giant picnic in the park for those that manage to wake up on time. For the truly hardcore, it’s back to the bars after the picnic to run one more night into the dawn.
Vappu is a great Finnish tradition that can be a great way to meet the locals and experience this unique bit of the country’s culture. Visitors are welcome to come and enjoy the experience, hanging out with Finland’s people and drinking as long as they can keep up.