Walpurgis Night

I'm in Sweden over the weekend, trying to get a paper finished that was promised to a journal weeks ago. But I just don't seem to be able to write in Berlin. I have to be in Sweden, fuss around in the garden, and then write, write, write, usually with the fire going and a nice glass of red wine on my desk.

I came up by train just for a longish weekend, having no appointments for some reason the past Friday. The night train is again running, I used to take it 12 years ago when I had my sabbatical in Malmö and would go home to Berlin with WiseKid every other week. It's great - you get on at 10.30 pm in Berlin, and get off in Malmö at 8 am. The other way you get on at 9.30 pm and get into Berlin at 6 am - just perfect for people like me who can sleep in trains. A neighbor picked me up at the station, so I don't need a car.

Anyway, tonight is Walpurgis Night. In Germany this is the night the witches fly to the Blocksberg and do their thing. Here in Sweden this is one of the high holy drinking days (the others being New Year's, Midsommer, and the Friday after Payday every month). There is all sorts of rituals involved in this holiday, besides just drinking.

I saw on the notice board that there was going to be a family evening down at the community center, so I walked down in the early evening. First they sang all sorts of spring songs, accompanied by piano, accordion, and guitar. Then there was a play. I recognized the chairman of the church board, the chairman of the community center, and the woman who hands out the hymnals in church. She was actually very funny, playing "Uncle Eric". They spoke Skånska, the local dialect, which I can in general understand if I concentrate, but not with two kids screaming just behind me. I gave up and read my magazine.

Then there was coffee and cinnamon buns. I went up the the pianist, who speaks German and I have known for many years. She was happy to see me and introduced me to all sorts of people - and brought me up to speed on the gossip of the last 4-5 years, I had only seen her a few times recently.

As it was getting dark we followed the marschaller, little torchpots set out to show us the way to the bonfire. The local boys men had apparently been collecting branches for quite some time, they had quite a collection piled up on a field a good ways from all the buildings. They doused the pile with gasoline, made the kids stand back, and set a propane torch.

With a whoosh the flame jumped to the sky, sending sparks all over the place. The kids squealed with joy and began dancing around the fire as the adults poured some alcoholic refreshments and started singing. The pianist introduced me to more people, and we had attempted to have some conversation, although the blood alcohol level was quickly rising, precluding most rational thought.

As the flames died down more brush was put on, the flame thrower used again, and then the kids got out long sticks to grill hot dogs and marshmellows - I believe these customs are imported from Hollywood and not handed down from the Vikings, but one never knows.

All along the hillside you could see bonfires blazing. I remember the first time I saw this, I thought Sweden was under attack!

It was cold, so I said my goodbyes and trudged home and made my own fire - in the fireplace.

1 comment:

Terje - isehakkaja said...

i thing the drinking habit is something very in common to the scandinavians, incl. the estonians (special attention to the midsummer)
greetings from A