Walpurgis Night is celebrated in the Nordic region and elsewhere in Europe to welcome spring. Originally, the Germanic peoples celebrated the pre-Christian Victory Blot, also known as the Spring Blot, where light triumphed over darkness and fertility was considered stronger. The exact timing of the celebration varied between different regions in the Nordic countries.
Valborg, originally Walpurgis, was born around 710 and was an English princess summoned to Germany to help Christianize the Germans. After her death in 779, a cult was created around Valborg where she was believed to provide protection against witches and evil spirits. This led to Valborg’s name being associated with Segerblot and bonfires.
May fires, which in Sweden are called “majbrasa” and in other Nordic countries are lit during midsummer, symbolized the burning of the old and the coming of spring. The fires were originally symbolic of the coming of light and burning away the old, rather than scaring away witches.
When Walpurgis Night became a Christian holiday, the meaning of the fire changed, and the sacred fire was considered to keep away witches in league with the devil. Today, Walpurgis Night is celebrated differently in different countries, but a modern tradition is to light the barbecue for the first time in the year. In Finland, the holiday is called ‘vappen’ and is celebrated similarly to Sweden, while other countries that celebrate Walpurgis Night include Estonia, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Germany.
The Nordic Times