Feb 182012

The celebration of Walpurgis Night (Valborgsmässoafton) on the last day of April. Photograph by Henryk Kotowski on April 30, 2005 in Akalla, a suburb of Stockholm, Sweden.

Walpurgisnacht or Walpurgis Night is celebrated in parts of Central and Northern Europe on April 30th. This is a spring festival with lots of dancing and bonfires.

The festival is named after Saint Walpurga, an English nun and a missionary in Germany. She was born in Wessex in 710, and died on February 25th.

She was canonized on May 1st (ca. 870) and became associated with May Day. The eve of May day, traditionally celebrated with dancing, became known as Walpurgisnacht or “Walpurga’s night”.

15th century German literature describes the day as the Witches’ Sabbath where witches, demons, and the dead roam the earth, meet, and dance. Witches held a large celebration on the Blocksberg (is the highest peak in the Harz Mountains in Germany).

In the Czech Republic, Pálení Čarodějnic (“Burning of the Witches”) or Čarodějnice (“The Witches”) celebrates the end of winter by burning rag and straw witches or broomsticks on bonfires.

In Estonia, Volbriöö is celebrated on April 30, and Kevadpüha or “Spring Day on May 1. Volbriöö night was originally a gathering witches.

In Sweden, this day is all about welcoming spring. It is called Valborg. Huge bonfires are lit. Ancient practices included letting farm animal graze the hillside while the bonfires burned. Children gathering branches and greenery at dusk. Modern traditions include a breakfast of champagne and strawberries followed by champagne races that include both drinking champagne and spraying champagne on each other.

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 February 18, 2012  Posted by at 10:29 am April Tagged with: ,