Why do we celebrate Walpurgis?
Walpurgis Eve, Valborg or Sista april (‘The Last day of April’), is the largest student festival of the year in Uppsala with events such as the Running of the Falls at the Fyris River, herring lunches, gasques – and much more. The tradition of celebrating Walpurgis goes way back, and it all started especially in the eastern parts of Sweden, namely among Uppsala students.
During the early 19th century, students in Uppsala started a tradition of walking up to the top of the Castle Hill, Slottsbacken, to see the bonfires on the surrounding plains on the last day of April. Those whith a predilection for singing siezed the opportunity – and that is how the great student singing tradition was born. It is confirmed that in 1823, the song “Våren är kommen” (‘Spring has come’), was performed next to Uppsala castle. Eventually, it became customary to toast the king and country, and perhaps make a speach to greet the spring.
By the end of the 19th century, the tradition was full-blown – the entire Student Union showed up and it became customary for the vice-president of the Union to deliver an address to the spring. This often acclaimed speech has been broadcast nationally on the radio every year since 1926 (with the exception of 1951), but since 1971 the address has been delivered by the Curator Curatorum, i.e. the president of Kuratorskonventet, the cooperation of the Student Nations. The Gunilla Bell is rung at 21:00, and the Allmänna Sången choir still performs.
The Donning of the Caps takes place at Carolina Rediviva. At 15:00, the Chancellor of Uppsala University raises his white cap as a signal to the crowd to do the same thing and run down Carolinabacken. Balloons rise towards the sky and a general spring cheer erupts the crowd. It was at the beginning of the 20th century that this tradition started. At this time, students decided to not put their white caps on until in the morning the 30th of April, as a sign of the end of winter. Eventually, it became a tradition to get together in Carolinabacken and put the caps on just when the clock struck 15:00. In the 50’s, the Chancellor Torgny Segerstedt came up with the idea to raise his hat as an official starting point of spring, and so the tradition was created.
A few years later, in 1975, the Running of the Falls at the Fyris River was added to the Walpurgis tradition, at the initative of students within the current Uppsala Union of Engineering and Science Students (UTN). A variety of vessels, more or less imaginatively equipped, glide down the Fyris River. In the same year, the popular event Champagnegalopp was created, started by two students at Stockholms Nation. Both of these elements are today as natural parts of the Walpurgis celebration as teh Donning of the Caps and the Spring Speech.
Walpurgis in Uppsala
Since a few years back, several organizations in Uppsala have a close collaboration with the aim of making the Walpurgis celebration as good as possible. Among the main organizers are Destination Uppsala, The Municipality of Uppsala, Uppsala University and the student nations of Uppsala through collaboration in Kuratorskonventet.Read more