Vappu – First of May in Finland is a carnivalesque celebration of the spring, the working class and the students. In the east of Pitkäsilta bridge are located the traditional working class districts of Helsinki, Hakaniemi and Kallio. Hakaniemi square is coloured in red when the workers traditional Vappu march arrives there carrying red flags decorated with pictures of Lenin and Marx, symbols of the left wing parties and writings which meaning remained partly unknown to me. When you go to west of Pitkäsilta the atmosphere changes: politics are left behind and the main focus is on having a good time. Children are treated with balloons and candies. Families, friends and students gather in Kaivopuisto to enjoy picnic. Everyone is happy, the atmosphere is relaxed and nobody minds of the prevailing chaos (traffic jams, packed trams, litter…), just because it is Vappu!
The traditional Vappu march can be seen and heard from far thanks to the red flags and the marching band.
In Finland all the festivities start always on the eve of the official day. Vappu’s kick off is at 6 pm on 30th of April when a group of university students wash Havis Amanda fountain and put the traditional black and white student cap on her head. By the first of May, someone had already stolen her hat.
Kaivopuisto is the park where most of Helsinkians gather to enjoy the company of their family and friend. A big part of the crowd is formed by university students, often easy to recognize due to their overalls.