Walpurgis Night in the rain

April 30th, 2014, 9pm

Walpurgis night, or Valborg as we call it around here, is an old pagan tradition in which spring is greeted and celebrated. The name Valborg, or Walpurgis in german, comes from a saint whom I don’t know more about other than the fact that she was probably the reason that this tradition survived the christening of the country back in the day. How it survived the reformation, when King Gustav Wasa decided that protestantism was a much smarter bet than catholicism, since he wouldn’t need to pay money to the pope, that I have no idea of. Protestantism never were much interested in saints like Valborg.

Most of us don’t remember the specifics around Valborg, but it remains an important tradition anyway. As a kid you follow your parents to the bonfire and you listen to the hymns and you learn to sing them. As a youth, Valborg is a reason to party. As a student at the university, especially in of the old ones in Uppsala or Lund, Valborg comes with its own set of traditions. If the weather was nice Valborg in Uppsala could be like a carnival, a city-wide celebration. To me, it was usually centered around food, wine and friends (in no particular order). Somehow I didn’t manage to see even one bonfire during all my years in Uppsala. For some reason, I keep thinking of a memory, a moment during Valborg one year. Me and some friends had been eating and drinking in a park, and my friend P fell back on the grass with his head cradled by his hands. I did too, happy and content, full on wine, good food and good company. Me and P looked up at the tree tops from where we were laying. It had been a quite cold spring, so the trees were just budding, but they were oh so green against that blue sky and they filled our entire field of vision. “You know”, I said wisely and well, yes, quite tipsy, to P. “There’s something special in the air when the trees look like this. In the spring, before everything really get’s going, there’s magic in the air. All that unrealized power.” -“Yes”, P said (and he usually didn’t object to my opinions). “I agree.”

That was a couple of years ago, and since then I have changed cities, occupations and friends a couple of times. I still believe that there is something magical about this time of year, though. Yesterday I was alone. I had been working, and on my way home through the city center, I saw street vendors preparing for the evening. About the same time as I opened the door to my apartment, the sky opened. It must have been the heaviest rainfall we’ve had so far this year. After a while it turned into a thunder storm with strong winds, and then it started hailing. I could hear the street vendors curse through my open window, when one of them lost the plastic sheet he’d used for cover to the wind. It felt almost like the beginning of a biblical punishment of some sort. I smirked to myself at the thought of students having pick-nicks. Around nine in the evening the rain had calmed down. I slipped into a jacket and shoes and went out. There were people everywhere, but not as many as usual, due to obvious, rain-related reasons. I picked a place on the sidewalk under a chestnut tree, just outside the park where most people stood. I had a fairly good view of the lit up castle and the choirs that stood ready to sing between the towers, probably better than if I had gone closer. The choirs sang the hymns beautifully, but wouldn’t distract the audience from the fact that the archers hadn’t manage to light the bonfire on the raft in stream. After 15 minutes of tension and burning arrows, someone finally threw out a flare. I think I heard a collective sigh from the crowd in the rain. There would be spring this year as well.

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Shu, Ken and Pablo said thanks.

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Sanna Karlsson

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