Something wonderful about the Swedes is that they don’t burn their bridges. Valborg, a tradition historically associated with warding off evil spirits through the act of lighting massive bonfires and singing with intentions to scare off witches, transformed with the times to keep up with the pace of a less religious country that’s now too occupied to make time for witch hunts. I am, of course, just kidding to lighten the mood through my history lesson, Sweden is a very welcoming country even for witches today. A functional adoption of lighting bonfires through the course of our sheep-island, Gotland’s, history became the use of bonfires as means to protect livestock – Valborg traditionally became the day when farm animals were let out of the barns for the first time, and farmers would gather their sheep around the fire to scare away predators, all the while praying for a fruitful harvest season. Nowadays, Valborg is celebrated for yet another reason.
This time last year, I was a burnt-out Zoomling sitting in my Visby apartment with no hope on the horizon to experience a true Valborg gathering which everyone else has fired my imagination with, but now, I am burning with curiosity to see what this tradition is all about. The modernised function of this tradition is to welcome spring, to manifest the change in seasons, which is much needed after the lengthy winter we have been stuck with here on Gotland. If by dancing around bonfires I can let the intrusive April snow clouds know they have outstayed their welcome, buckle up beause I have energy to burn!
Fiery jokes aside, allow me to spark your curiosity about Valborg celebrations on Gotland. Rather than a closed, family celebration, Valborg is a public event, often organised in neighborhoods by the local community, and there are numerous celebration spots to be all fired up and ready to welcome attendees on the evening of April 30th. HelaGotland’s calendar lists several bonfire gatherings to take place across Gotland, where the general celebration events include music, song-singing, spring-welcoming, Swedish fika and hot dogs, choir performances, as well as well-planned times for the lighting of the bonfires. These true-to-tradition celebrations have a cozy atmosphere as the small communities gather and spend time by the fire from dusk till the cold grips of the evening. The afternoon sun is bound to keep everybody warm, but after sunset, gatherers seek warmth around the orange flames of the scorching fire.
If you don’t feel fired up by the idea of spending time outdoors after sunset, here’s a hot tip: our student union Rindi has other events to offer between April 28th to May 1st to cater to your liking. From Hästarnas dal to Strandgärdet and Almedalen, their gatherings take place both during the day and in the late afternoon to evenings, and you can join them for all sorts of games, sports activities ranging from football to baseball, a quiz walk, a big picnic in Almedalen park, as well as an ovve ceremony! This will be a fantastic opportunity to unite as students and spend some quality days together. Don’t forget to wear your ovve!
I hope I managed to spark your interest in spending Valborg on Gotland and get aquainted with this beloved Swedish tradition. Personally, I will spend the rest of my working week burning the midnight oil to wrap everything up and have the free time to enjoy the planned events. Thank you for reading my article that I filled with as many fire-expressions as I could for your enjoyment – Have a safe and pleasant Valborg celebration!