Today is Valborg – or Walpurgis – in Sweden. Walpurgis was originally celebrated by Viking to hasten the arrival of spring and ensure fertility of their crops and livestock. They would do this by lighting huge bonfires to scare away evil spirits and predators.
The holiday name comes from a very different source. The name Walpurgis came from Saint Walpurga, a nun who was known to speak out against witchcraft and sorcery. She was canonized on May 1st, 779. Since that date was so close to the Vikings festivals the celebrations have later been celebrated as a combined holiday.
Just like Swedish Easter, this holiday feels a little like the American Halloween. It is said to be a night when the witches ride on their broomsticks through the sky, and the natural world clashes with the super natural.
St Walpurgis is celebrated by the Scandinavians as well as other parts of Europe like Check Republic, Estonia and Germany.
Traditions may vary some in different parts of Sweden. Today Walpurgis eve is celebrated to bring on spring. There are usually big festivals and bonfires (called “Majbrasa”) on the eve of the day. Song is a big part of many Swedish holidays – and during Walpurgis traditional songs about spring are sung throughout the country. Swedes also raise their flags on this day to pay respect to the king and display their patriotism. As with most holidays there is of course plenty of beer and aquavit.