Vappu – A celebration of the coming of spring
Walpurgis Night or Vappu in Finnish (Vappen in Finland-Swedish) is one of the biggest holidays in Finland. It’s a celebration of the coming on spring with a carnival-like outdoor picnics across the country and large crowds of people usually gathering in the parks. Since the 19th century, Vappu has also been the largest student festival, with people donning their black-and-white high-school student caps and university students putting on their brightly coloured overalls which represent their faculty. Vappu is celebrated from the 30th of April until May 1st and students in particular use the occasion to consume copious amounts of alcoholic beverages.
It’s on the latter day on the 1st of May that people gather in the parks for picnics (Sillis in Finland-Swedish, sill being pickled herring, which is often consumed on Vappu). In Helsinki, Kaivopuisto is by far the most popular destination while students from Swedish university faculties usually gather in Kaisaniemenpuisto. The 1st of May, May Day, is also a public holiday in Finland as the Finnish workers’ day. On May Day the workers’ unions hold parades down the Esplanade to the parliament building. So, against the background of Vappu being mostly a drunken celebration for students and the international day of workers’, is there anything to do with the family? The answer, of course, is plenty! Here follows a quick list of child friendly events and general tips for celebrating Vappu in Helsinki with the whole family.
Events and gatherings in Helsinki for families during Vappu
Thursday April 26th
MLL Ruoholahti-Jätkäsaaren vappurieha (“Vappu celebration”) at the Ruoholahti playground at 4 to 6 PM. On the program is a buffet, selling of Vappu balloons, pony riding, disco and lots of other activities for the whole family. See here for more info (in Finnish): MLL info.
Friday April 27th
Saturday April 28th
The Kindergarten museum is having a kids event on Saturday from 10 AM to 2 PM. More information will become available on their own website.
Create your own toy Vappu windmill at the Hakaniemi market hall on Saturday from 11 AM to 3 PM. More info here
Sunday April 29th
An exhibition called Barbie The Icon has a childrens’ opening at the National museum on Sunday from 12 to 18 PM. The event features a circus act, balloons and lots of other activities for the price of admission. More info on this Facebook event
Walpurgis Night, Monday April 30th
Vappu Razzmatazz at Nurkka playground on Monday from 10.30 AM. More info on Nurkka’s Facebook page.
Vappu Disco for toddlers at Puuskankulma playground (in Jollas, Laajasalo) from 10.45 AM. More info on this Facebook event.
Linnanmäki is open from 1 to 9 PM. Main event this year is a Circus carnival. Headlining artist on Monday is Jokeri Pokeri Pox magic show. During the Lasten vappu (kids Vappu) event the there bear statue will get its student cap and kids can make their own vappu face masks.
The Meilahti congregation will have a vappu event for families from 3 to 6 PM. More info here
The traditional student event of capping of the Havis Amanda statue will take place on Vappu eve at 18 PM. The precursor to the actual capping is the washing of the statue, which starts at 5 PM. Be prepared for large crowds! Read more about this event here
MLL Ruoholahti-Jätkäsaari Terhokerho’s Vappu Party at Hyvän toivon chapel’s club room on Monday from 5 to 7 PM. More info on this facebook page
Community singing at Kanneltalo on Monday from 6 PM. More info on this site.
Espoo: Vappunen! -gimmeltävää meininkiä at Lastenkulttuurikeskus Pikku-Aurora from 4 to 7 PM. On the program is disco for kids, clowns, a glitter factory and more! More info in this Facebook event. Tickets 5 €, under 2-year-olds free of charge.
May Day, Tuesday May 1st
Lasten vappushokkelo 2018 at the Kumpula botanical gardens on Tuesday from 10 AM to 5 PM. In this event for kids we get to learn about the world of dinosaurs! Tickets 4 €/2 €. More info (in Finnish) at the event website.
Helsingin Työväen vappu party (Helsinki workers’ society) at Rautatientori features programs for kids too (such as a bouncy castle) starting at 10 AM. More info on this Facebook event.
A Vappu celebration for the whole family at Roihuvuori church from12 noon to 3 PM. More info on this facebook page.
Linnanmäki is open from 1 to 9 PM!
Vantaa: MLL Aviapolis’ Traditional Vappu event at Illenpuisto on Tuesday from 10 AM to 1 PM. Illunpuisto is famous as the backdrop for the Risto Räppääjä movie and features a lot of activities for the whole family. More info on this Facebook event.
Espoo: MLL Soukka VappuKarkelot (“Vappu party”) at Soukka community park Tusday 11 AM to 2 PM. More information can be found on This Facebook event.
Hyvinkää: Hyvinkää Vappu event at Hyvinkää city center on Tueday 10 AM to 2 PM. Along with a vappu market there will be a car cruising show with lots of perfoming artists, including Tanhupallo of the TV programme Putous fame. More information on this Facebook event.
General tips and ideas for celebrating Vappu with the family
Take the family out on a picnic – the traditional Finnish way of celebrating Vappu! Kaivopuisto, Tähtitorninmäki and Kaisaniemenpuisto will all be teeming with people celebrating Vappu, and can often be quite rowdy, so we recommend finding some calmer parks, such as Lenininpuisto, Koffinpuisto, Mustikkamaa or even the southern tip of Lauttasaaren ulkoilupuisto. For an even calmer picnic closer to nature, we recommend Uutela, Kallvik and Sipoonkorpi national park, where you’ll most likely not see any other revellers.
Linnanmäki reopens for the 2018 season on April 27th at 4 PM and admission to the amusement park is free this year too. Small children will get free entry to some rides too. During Vappu there will be Circus carnival with the event details updating in the near future.
Make a new tradition and spend your Vappu picnic at Korkeasaari Zoo? This is now possible as Korkeasaari is now open on Vappu! There is a cover charge to enter Korkeasaari.
The traditional Vappu drink is Sima, a kind of sweet mead. Sima usually contains some alcohol but shops these days sell alcohol-free Sima as well. Make sure to check before offering to your kids, though. Tippaleipä is a Finnish version of the American Funnel Cake. It’s made by pouring batter into hot cooking oil and deep frying the mass until golden-brown. The Finno-Swedish community call the May Day picnic Sillis, which is derived from Sill meaning pickled herring. As the name implies, pickled herring us often consumed on these picnics together with cooked potatoes, potato salad or similar cold salads. Meatballs and small sausages (nakki) are usually a part of the Vappu diet too!