Walpurgis Night tradition

The tradition of celebrating Walpurgis Night came to Sweden from Germany as far back as the Middle Ages. Come and celebrate Walpurgis Night with us – a Skansen tradition since 1892.

  • Walpurgis Night is celebrated every year on 30 April, when we sing in the spring and clear away the winter by gathering around the Walpurgis fire. In 1892, just six months after the opening of Skansen, Walpurgis Night was first celebrated – albeit on a modest scale – at Hazelius’ new open-air museum on Djurgården. Songs were sung, and people cheered for the spring and the king. In accordance an East Swedish custom, fires were also lit in the evening.

    The history of Walpurgis Night celebrations

    The tradition came to Sweden from Germany in the Middle Ages, where it had been established during the 15th century. Walpurgis was an Anglo-Saxon underking’s daughter who travelled to Germany in the 8th century, where she became an abbess. After her death, she was canonised on 1 May and subsequently commemorated on that date.

    The fact that Walpurgis Night has become so popular is probably due not only to the woman after whom the holiday was named, but also to the fact that 1 May was already a special occasion. On this date, the merchants’ and craftsmen’s guilds in the towns elected new dignitaries, and new aldermen were chosen in the villages. This was an important event that was celebrated with festivities on the night before, 30 April, when people came together and lit fires.

    The song of spring and students at Skansen

    In southern Sweden, another Walpurgis tradition emerged among the young people in rural areas. This was called ‘carrying May into the village’ or ‘singing May’. A group of youngsters made their way from farmstead to farmstead, singing a May song and placing a green sprig (also known as ‘may’) in the eaves of the cottages. In return for their efforts, the May singers would be given food for a feast.

    Student singers first welcomed the spring at Skansen in 1894. By then, 30 April had long been an important day for students and male choirs in the university city of Uppsala. When the newspapers advertised for student singers to sing at Skansen’s Walpurgis Night celebrations, there was a huge response – and interest in joining the choir continued to grow over the years.

    The choir soon had more than 200 members, and in 1900 at least 10,000 Stockholmers came to Skansen to celebrate Walpurgis Night. The same songs are still sung today as we welcome the spring at Skansen.

  • Celebration on April 30th 2023

    Welcome to visit Skansen and celebrate all day and night. See all acitivites here.