If you remember back in the glory days of LTR (ps I miss those days) we would occasionally teach Rob about holidays he wasn’t familiar with. Some of my favorites in the series were written by Zees84 like Rob gets Hebrew-schooled and The one where Zees explains Chanukah to Rob (and not just because I got ao photoshop a yamaka on Rob) Well last year MariaCecilia emailed us about Valpuris night but I responded too late. This year I remembered (cuz she reminded me) and so here without further ado is an explanation of a holiday made for Rob. Because all you do is drink:
Today is April 30th– a holiday I’m sure you’re familiar with- Valpuris Night. And if you’re not, well, I’m here to tell you: This should really interest you, since the central theme of this fine holiday is to get drunk as early as possible in the day and then stay drunk through the next 24 hours. (It’s really supposed to be about greeting spring and scaring winter off with fires or something like that, but nobody remembers anymore.)
April 30 in my hometown is the only day of the year when there are people milling around the city center with an open beer in their hand and a plastic bag filled with the day’s stash of alcohol in their other hand from 10 in the morning. Mostly it’s students, but there are also quite a number of teenagers and middleaged people joining in. Do the police here have a different policy to public drinking than they do in the US or Britain, you may ask? No, but let’s face it, with the city centre swarming with tens of thousands of local and visiting drunks and a police force in the hundreds, you have to focus on the important parts, like arresting the violent ones, rescuing the unconscious, and carting the 13 to 17-year-olds you find drunk home to their (hopefully sober) parents.
So this is how you do it: The day begins at around 8am with a champagne breakfast at a friend’s house. Strawberries are traditional with the champagne, but don’t be surprised if you are served hot oatmeal too. Disgusting or not, that is also part of the tradition here. After all, if you’re going to stay on your feet all day, you will need the energy!
After breakfast you move to the city centre, with your plastic bag and beer firmly in your hands, and battle the crowds for a front row place close to the river. At 10 o’clock the traditional student river race begins: carried by the spring flood, students from different student clubs compete on rafts they have constructed in the preceding week. The more fanciful, the better: imagine floats in a parade, but on the river. Naturally, quite a few of them collapse going down the rapids, but that’s all part of the fun and games. Hopefully the champagne hasn’t gone to your head, because you need to look out for enthusiastic people throwing eggs and firecrackers around: all in festive spirits of course. Please buy me a balloon on the way, ‘cause this is one of the few occasions when there are balloon salesmen walking around town. A silver heart or a unicorn would be nice, thank you!
Afterwards, it’s time to head out for your next date with friends: the traditional herring lunch. At another friend’s house, you are served pickled herring, boiled potatoes, hardboiled eggs, sour cream and chives, hard bread and cheddar cheese, and everything that goes with a herring lunch. With lots of schnapps and beer, of course! And for every schnapps you drink you learn a new song, since toasts are done with singing in this country. (You won’t know a single song, so I suggest you just move your lips and shout “Skål!” at the end of it. I do that all the time. )
Reeling slightly, you need to get a move on again around 2.30, to be able to make it to the traditional donning of student caps outside the University library downtown. The traffic has been redirected since the hill outside the library is now packed with thousands of people, waiting for the Rector Magnificus of the University to step out onto the balcony with his prominent guests, and at exactly 3 o’clock put his student cap on his head. (You can borrow mine, and no one will think it strange if it doesn’t fit. After all, there are people in their seventies here, sporting student caps yellow with age, and your head probably grew bigger after graduation, right?)
The action on the balcony is a sign for everyone else to wave their caps, shout Hurrah and put them on. Tradition now requires you to turn around and run all the way down the Castle hill, but since we are thousands packed tightly together we will hopefully manage to move at a dignified pace, milling down together towards the city centre, without having anyone throw up on us or get trampled to death. This is probably the point where I lose my balloon.
Now we head to one of the student clubs, where there will be music, dancing and champagne at 3.15. Unfortunately, some people think that the champagne should be sprayed around instead of served in plastic mugs, so there is a chance you will get more soaked than before, unless you brought a raincoat. When you have got your fill, and unless you need to go home and change, we are then heading out to one of the major parks in town, where you will find your friends on a blanket with more beer and a disposable grill. The rest of the afternoon until early evening will be spent drinking and eating sausages with potato salad and drunk people watching.
If you’re lucky, you have a ticket to one of the student balls this evening, the most prestigious one takes place in the Castle itself and is hosted by the University choir, but there are plenty of student clubs, so I’m sure we’ll get you in somewhere. Since I would love to see you in tails, I vote for the Castle, where there will be a three-course meal and dancing to a live band afterwards, if you are still able to stand up. Keep some cash on hand for the bar!
If we don’t get in, however, we can at least go see one of the Valpurgis fires that are lit around 8 o’clock on different spots on the outskirts of town, usually with someone making speeches hailing spring and choirs singing, fireworks and more firecrackers. Then we rush back to the Castle to catch the traditional concert outside the Castle by the University choir, singing songs to spring, after the tolling of the University bell outside the Castle at 9 o’clock. By now you may have run out of beer, and we need to buy some more off some disreputable character out of the trunk of his car, or tag along with friends who still got some.
We will spend the rest of the night going from party to party, or just hanging around downtown trying to get in somewhere, acting like the crazy belligerent drunks we are. We will probably fall asleep in the grass of a public park among the trash of the day, and wake up at 7, wet and cold from the dew, to stagger home through a town where the clean-up crews are working hard to prepare the town for the more sober 1st of May celebration with demonstrations and political speeches. Hopefully none of us will get mugged, beat up or raped, if we keep away from the darkest part of the parks after midnight, where the police and charity organizations try to keep an eye out for helpless drunks in danger.
And then we spend the 1st of May nursing our hangovers, which is also traditional, and something I’m sure you feel familiar with. Let’s have our Spring fling and share my Valpurgis party with me, Rob!
Think we’ll get anything GOOD out of Rob being in Vancouver for reshoots? Maybe he’ll hang out by that church again? You know the one!