Monday, May 20, 2013

It's Vappu Time!

Or at least it was! I am a little late posting about the celebration as it happens on May 1st! Yikes! But I keep thinking about a few things that happens around this holiday so I guess better late than never!

Vappu is the Finnish holiday that celebrates the coming of summer and workers rights. Here is a more detailed description of the holiday. What I didn't realize is that Vappu is actually like two holidays in one! You celebrate Walpurgis Night the day before by partying in the park and capping a public statue.  Here is where I think things get interesting.

In Finland, when you successfully take your matriculation exams you get a white cap that looks like this:

This cap is a REALLY BIG DEAL! And anyone who gets one, wears it proudly on Vappu for the rest of their lives! Not kidding, the rest of your life.

Here are some pictures from the capping of the statue in Jyväskylä on April 30th.

The overalls represent the university program you
are currently studying.  The patches are a fun twist.

These are the winners of Amazing Race Jyväskylä who get
to put the cap on the statue.  Big deal! 

After the cap goes on the statue, everyone puts their own cap
on and start singing and celebrating!

Then on May 1st, everyone gathers outside with family and friends (still wearing the overalls and the white cap) to celebrate by picnicking and enjoying the new season. I had a fantastic time even though at one point someone said, "are we really picnicking in the hail?" None of us moved- we are all becoming a little more Finnish! Here are some shots from the day.

Band walking by playing cheery tunes!

Lots to eat and drink- including Sima!  Delicious!

Old car parade through the streets of Jyväskylä
After hanging out in the park and watching all the white caps on the heads around me, I started thinking about this holiday and how it has an interesting twist. Finland is very proud of the fact that it's educational philosophy and therefore reforms are focused on equality. Every school is the same. Every child has an equal opportunity to get a quality education. There are no divisions- every path is seen as successful.  However, this holiday divides a country along educational lines. Students who don't take the matriculation exam (read here-vocational students) don't get a cap. They can celebrate, but they don't get to wear the highly regarded white cap. A division right down the middle. 

Now it is only a division if the people who don't have a white cap, want one. I asked around and got a lot of different answers. It appears that a few years ago, vocational school graduates started getting their own cap, but I didn't see anyone wearing a different kind of cap. Since most of my Finnish friends are either teachers or in university, the majority of them have a white cap to break out for Vappu making my survey skewed. What I do know is that after talking with a class of double diploma students (getting both vocational qualification and taking the matriculation exam) the first thing out of their mouth when talking about motivation is that white cap. That tells me that no one likes to be left out of a celebration.

It was a great day to celebrate spring with friends even without a white cap!  

I walk past these senior pictures every time I walk to town
could be why I am still thinking about Vappu!


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  2. It's good learning material for the students and good to see this one.