April 30 Walpurgis Night

| March/April 2001

Across Northern Europe, celebrations of the old pagan holiday of May Day start the night before. Revelers light bonfires atop hills to drive away the last vestiges of winter, a custom still observed by the English royal family, according to Edain McCoy in The Sabbats (Llewellyn, 1994). It’s the perfect excuse for young people to stay out all night, frolicking in the newly warm spring air. At Oxford University, choristers greet the arrival of May in a 6 a.m. concert from the tower of Magdelan College. Young lovers then traditionally top off the long evening with a boat ride and champagne breakfast on the riverbank. At Uppsala University in Sweden, the celebration begins at 3 p.m. with flurries of winter caps tossed into the Fyris River, followed by a night of singing and dancing that culminates in a sunrise procession through town with everyone singing, 'Sköna maj, Välkommen.' (Beautiful May, Welcome.')

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