May first (called Vappu in Finland) is one of the biggest holidays in Finland. The excitement in the air for a week before Vappu was palpable.
Last week, my Facebook feed had more than a few articles about public urination, excessive drinking and reasons why to avoid the city parks where Vappu is celebrated. I knew that our favorite park, Kaivopuisto (the park by the sea where we went sledding in the winter), would be filled with picnickers celebrating Vappu and that it could get crazy and I am NOT a fan of big crowds. Part of me thought, "how bad could it get?" and the other part of me feared it would be similar to the drunken party that was Halloween at my Alma mater, the University of Wisconsin Madison (must...not...drink...kamikazes...ever...again...) .
One of the first things I noticed the week before Vappu were the balloon vendors. And while my children begged for an enormous Angry Birds balloon, at 20 Euros ($27) a pop--pun intended--we had to forgo this Finnish tradition.
We had plans to picnic with Finnish friends at Kaivopuisto. And I have to say, while there were A LOT of people,
it was really quite tame. Everybody finds their own little piece of rock or grass and sets up their picnic.
It is customary to drink sparkling wine (or Champagne if budget allows!) And I love that kids Joey's age run around collecting the wine bottles to turn in for a few extra Euros!
I always find it interesting to see what other cultures prepare for a picnic. Here, salmon seems to be quite a popular choice. We also tried Finnish potato salad and "tippaleipa" a Finnish funnel cake. These two foods in addition to hot dogs (no buns please) are very common Vappu foods. We brought the ever-popular Finnish salsa and guacamole!
I'm sure at this point you're wondering..."what's with all the white hats?"
These are the hats Finns receive when they graduate from high school (lukio). While May Day is generally a day to celebrate workers in many countries all over the world, here in Finland, it has become more of a student celebration.
High schools are not the only institutions represented at Vappu...you also see a lot of people wearing these jumpers:
The jumpers represent different universities and departments within the university and the patches all over the jumpers are from different clubs and contests (i.e. sledding, drinking...etc.). Joey covets the jumper and the hat--he says he's not leaving Finland and that he will graduate from high school here. Any Finn out there who wants a permanent house guest for the next 6 years? Of course, then there's university.... ; )
We had a fantastic day. The weather was beautiful, the company engaging...
and then we went home to play some good old fashioned American running bases!