VALBORG

Valborg: the last day of April in Sweden, celebrated in anticipation of May Day (May 1st), which has its own historical significance. The modern significance of this holiday is to welcome in the spring. Across the country in the city parks and rural areas it is the custom to light massive bonfires to celebrate the night. The strongest and most traditional spring festivities are held in the major student cities, namely Lund and Uppsala. Students, graduates and many others gather at the city park on the morning of Valborg and traditionally have a champagne breakfast and continue drinking and barbecuing and enjoying the sun (if it's out)all day long. Choirs stand in front of the historical student buildings and sing traditional songs of spring. Celebrations of Valborg go back at least a couple to a few hundred years.

I heard about all this a couple of years ago, and have looked forward this whole year to getting to experience Valborg. What's not to like in that entire description? Some friends said I might be getting my expectations up too high, but I knew the warnings; yes it could rain and be lame, or the parties won't really pan out like you hope... but nevertheless, I kept my fingers crossed.

The sun shone down brilliantly on Valborg. We dragged ourselves out of bed despite being out for "Kvalborg" (the night before Valborg). We drank during breakfast and made our way to the park. The whole town was thumping. Our apartment complex and those around us, those all over the city, were pulsating with voices and music and excitement. As we drew nearer to the park, I could hear very loud music, the loudest of all. "What's that, is someone DJing the day or something?" I asked. Oh, indeed. I had pictured an incredibly packed park with everyone lazily drinking and laughing and eating. Not exactly the case. The middle of the park had become a club. No inches to spare, the beat was louder than your thoughts, and people danced and toasted and yelled... up to 30,000 of them. Our group found a sunny spot by the little lake near the edge of the melee and stayed for hours, some of us wandering occasionally to explore the scene. Finished bottles of champagne. Soaked up the sun. Everything framed in deep greens and blues. These hours were perfectly Valborg and exactly what I'd crossed my fingers for.

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(you can see the giant pile in preparation for the bonfire behind Ross & me)

A lot more happened in between this and my next story from the day after, but you can't tell about everything that happened in a Valborg weekend. There was and should be too much.

So May 1st is also a party for some in Lund... at my student nation, they historically celebrate the day with a band and a party in their back courtyard. In a contained area with just a couple hundred people (so easy to get to all your friends) you get to have burgers and beers and hear great cover songs and then a DJ. It was amazing, just as I'd always heard, but the really great part was when the thing happened that we'd all hoped against... It started raining. Just the day before, the weeks before, it had been so incredibly sunny. But it started to come down hard. And then it seemed like everyone just started jumping and dancing harder than before. They embraced the wetness and laughed in the face of it, because they'd gotten their sun and couldn't see how the rain could really ruin the weekend at this point on Sunday afternoon. We pounded our fists and flung our wet hair around. We smiled so widely. Even the security guard got on stage to sing a song. After that we even made our way to the university buildings to see the choirs sing in the spring. It was not what I was crossing my fingers for but in fact the rain, which many had warned me about, made my Valborg experience even more classically Swedish and memorable.

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Hours and hours later, after more dancing and mischief and watching the sun go down from the nation roof, my friends and I came upon a little afterparty in the cellar of the nation. A few people sat curled up against each other on couches while they sang to the melodies of a guy on a keyboard. We settled ourselves in, passed around beers, and enjoyed a most unexpected and low key wrap up to this crazy weekend. The music guy skillfully played such a wide range of songs, and we sang along as we could, from the Moulin Rouge medley, to Mr. Big, to Katy Perry, to Disney, to Coldplay, to MGMT. One rarely gets the chance to sing with your whole voice as I could that night... and despite the wear and tear the weekend had wrought, we had to sing and stay until the wee hours. Because it meant the closing of Valborg, and because it was an unexpected, not typically Valborg moment, but one I wanted to wrap my senses around and never forget.

"Memories fade, like looking through a fogged mirror..."
-MGMT

It's one of the reasons I write, really. To fight off the fog. So here's my Valborg story, recorded, which will help me retell it to someone else sometime, in possible anticipation of their first Valborg.



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