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A Swedish Spring

A Swedish Spring
April 22, 2000

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Rudy: "Spring is already in full swing throughout most of the U.S., and there's the usual menu of art festivals and flower celebrations. But in Sweden, they still have more than a week before the official beginning of their Spring, and they're preparing a hot event to mark the occasion. Michelle Kholos is here with this week's Culture Watch to tell us about it. Hi Michelle."

Michelle: "Hey Rudy. You know that great feeling of standing around a bonfire with a bunch of friends?"

Rudy: "Sure."


Michelle: "Well, that's exactly what the Swedes do to mark the beginning of Spring. They gather up anything that will burn: old chairs, extra firewood, whatever. They put it in the middle of the town and have a huge community bonfire."

Rudy: "They probably do it to keep warm. Some regions of northern Sweden are still in the dead of winter. Well, by most American standards anyway."

Michelle: "Yeah, the Swedes don't seem to mind that in the northern region there's still the chance of blizzards. The start of Spring, or Walpurgis Night, is that big of a deal!"

Rudy: "Where does that name come from, Walpurgis Night?"

Michelle: "It's named after St. Walpurga, an 8th century abbess in Germany. In German folklore, Walpurgishnacht is believed to be the night of the witches Sabbath in the Harz Mountains."

Rudy: "So that explains the bonfires. In Germany, in the old days, people lit bonfires to scare away witches at night."

Michelle: "Yes, and in the Middle Ages the people in Eastern Sweden began to copy that ritual. In Western Sweden, bonfires were lit at Easter instead. But by the 19th century, the country-wide standard became bonfires on Walpurgis, which is May 1st. And that's this week's Culture Watch."


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