Spring's bonfire bash: Sweden's Walpurgis Night  - Moz Sweden

Stories from the north

Spring’s bonfire bash: Sweden’s Walpurgis Night 

Valborgmässoafton is a traditional spring celebration in Sweden. Expect singalongs, sparkling flames, and maybe a toast or two. 

A medieval party that still rages on

Let’s cozy up by the fire and hear a tale of spring, shall we? Walpurgis, an 8th-century German saint, might be surprised to know Swedes celebrate her namesake as a joyous kick-off to the season. It all started in the Middle Ages, when Germans brought the tradition over. Back then, April 30th marked the end of the official year, making it a natural time for shopkeepers and artisans to whoop it up with a bit of pre-spring revelry. Think trick-or-treating (but with grown-ups!), dancing, and singing – a sure sign warmer days were on their way. 

Fast forward to the 18th century, and bonfires, called majbrasor or kasar, became the stars of the show. Lit to scare off any lingering predators, these crackling flames were backed up by loud noises – think clanging cowbells, booming guns, and good old-fashioned yelling. However, not everyone spent Walpurgis chasing away critters. In some areas, young people went caroling, serenading houses with spring songs in exchange for treats.

P.S. Whispers between us? The name Valborg isn’t just for bonfire celebrations. It’s a beautiful name for a girl, even today.

Choire singing

Sweden says spring with a bang (and a bonfire)

We Swedes mark the end of winter and greet spring with a fiery farewell – Valborgsmässoafton, or bonfire night. Every April 30th, under a sky that (hopefully) starts to lighten up, we gather ’round crackling bonfires, big or small. These blazes can be community affairs, massive pyres built by local groups on public land. But just as often, it’s a cozy backyard bonfire with close friends and family. Fueling the flames? Usually twigs and branches we’ve been meaning to clear anyway. Though, if you prefer a more classic fire, firewood works too! 

Truth be told, the most important ingredient isn’t the fire itself, but the company it brings. It’s about celebrating spring with loved ones, a warm drink in hand, and maybe a little something sizzling on the side. That’s the Swedish way to say hej då to winter and hej to sunshine! 

Bonfire with people watching