Sista april – the last day of April — is the day when Swedes traditionally celebrate the arrival of spring. As you can imagine it’s all very pagan. We make and light bonfires, assemble in public places to sing songs and give speeches; we drink heavily. Usually half-way into the revelries it starts snowing.
The day is celebrated with particular gusto in university towns, nowhere more so than at my alma mater in Uppsala. The time-honoured schedule for the day looks as follows:
- 0700: oatmeal porridge and champagne in dorm.
- 1000: wet and very cold ride down local river in home-made boat.
- 1230: lunch at student union. Herring, potatoes and vodka.
- 1500: assembly at royal castle, donning of student caps, collective and mad rush down castle hill.
- 1600: champagne and dancing at student union. Street parties.
- 1800: home for quick nap and shower.
- 1900: official Uppsala celebrations at royal castle. Bonfires and choral singing. Speech by mayor in honour of spring.
- 2000: student union for black-tie dinner, polite, slightly slurred, conversation.
- 2200: sauna, vodka, mutual slapping with birch-branches.
- 2400: back to student union, heavy drinking, general boogying-on-down and snogging in corners.
- 0400: sudden queeziness, realisation that one is wearing the wrong trousers, inability to find shoes. Secret vow never to do it again (until next year).