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    Vappu: Celebrating the Sun

    A few posts ago we spoke of Helsinki’s spring awakening. One week ago, however, we experienced Finland’s Spring Explosion.Explosive street life at the steps of Senate Cathedral

    We speak of May Day, the traditional spring festival celebrated across northern and central Europe. Internationally it is known as worker’s day or labor day, but that just barely scratches the surface. In Finland, it is known as Vappu, and it is much more than this. It is the Finn’s very own carnival - a day when kings behave as if they were fools and fools as if they were kings. There is much more lore to all of this, but when everything boils down, it is two fantastic days for commemorating the coming of spring, and the much desired sun.

    Although the unofficial celebrations for Vappu started roughly a month ago with several university students (identifiable by their overalls with colors that designate their schools), the official ceremony begins on Vappu Eve, or April 30, where tens of thousands of people gather in the heart of Helsinki to take part in the Havis Amanda Capping Ceremony.

    Thousands of people gather to see the Capping Ceremony. Havis Amanda is to the left of the foremost street lamp, just above the heads of the crowd. 

    Havis Amanda is a 1906 Parisian Art Nouveau Sculpture of a naked woman and serves as the centerpiece. The provocativity of the sculpture was originally the source of some controversy, and the urban legend today goes that Havis Amanda patronizes men's sexual potency. Some men believe that washing one's face with water from one of Havis Amanda's fountains and shouting thrice "Rakastaa!" (Finnish verb "love") increases men's sexual ability.She has been capped, and the mayhem ensues, not without a few screams of Rakastaa!

    At roughly 18:00, a group of selected students gather to place the Ylioppilaslakki (high school graduation cap) on the woman. At this point, the sound of popping campaign bottles reverberates down the street and the festivities continue late into the evening, along with Meade, beer, and every other imaginable kind of alcoholic substance.A few gentlemen clearly looking to improve their evening's potency. Downtown Helsinki was like this everywhere. Every piece of park, every square, every single step.   

    On actual Vappu day, everyone begrudgingly rises in the morning and makes the trek over to Kaivopuisto, the large sea-side park in southern Helsinki. The day is spent outside with friends and old classmates for traditional Finnish picnics, more sparkling wine, music, and to enjoy the newfound ability to be outside and not freeze one’s ass off. The park is a sea of white high school graduation caps, adorned by both the old and young.
    People trudge along the southern harbor towards Kaivopuisto 
    Kaivopuisto picnic, notice the student caps on everyone's heads

    We were fortunate to have on both days some of the best weather we have experienced yet in Finland, and for all the hype, it did not disappoint.A day to enjoy the sun and sit outside

    When we first arrived to Helsinki in late January, it was dark by 3pm and the sun didn’t rise until well after 9:00 AM. Now, it is light out until 10pm, and the sun rises before 5 in the morning. It was a long time coming, and a rapid transformation we are still adjusting to.

    Never before have we experienced a culture that is so aware to light and climate. We have said this countless times of the architecture here, but it goes well beyond the buildings. Sensitivity to light and the desire to celebrate the sun is something inherently engrained in the Finns, as every winter they must endure the deep, dark, cold. It only makes sense that it reverberates in the architecture. 

    Here a a few additional shots for you. Happy Vappu!


    Pre-capping celebrations with Aalto University Architecture students. Yes, Aalto designed the building. A few minutes after this photograph, they literally locked the doors to the building... why? I think they wanted us to enjoy the day outside :) 


    Aalto University Architecture Students in their student overalls.Prepping the "grill" - notice the Aalto Stairs through the glassCelebrating on Vappu Eve in Senate Square. (From the left: Alexander Morley, Francesco Rossin, Jennifer Wong, Bronwyn Charlton, Cordelia Kotin, Brian Driska)
    Students in Senate Square, The Pink Panther in background. 
    Exploring Kaivopuisto... many great little moments everywhere
    Interesting "Public Urinals"Just another Finn on Vappu - note the overalls in the background
    The Silja Line slips past one of the many islands of Helsinki Harbor on its daily commute to Stockholm. This is the ferry we took into the city over 3 months ago. 
    The Silja slips past Suomelinna Fortress. for more on this read the Red Herrings great entry on it here. Make sure you take not of how much ice was in the water just 27 days ago. Unbelievable!
    Our first view of Huviliakatu without snow... this is the most famous street for Finnish National Romantic Architecture in HelsinkiThe severe landmark spire of Mikael Agricola church


    This work by A.D.Morley & J.A.Wong is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

     

     
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A new adventure begins as we finish one chapter; we hope to share our story with you. We are current graduate students at Washington University in St. Louis, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts.

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