Tuesday, April 29, 2008

29 april...

Jennifer... the day before The Day.

"The Day" is April 30, also known as sista april. From what I hear, it is the day when Uppsala goes insane. It sounds like a combination of Venetian Festival (back when it was cool) and a UM-OSU game (from our old vantage point of right next to the stadium), with elements of Halloween (bonfires at night to keep the witches away) and Mardi Gras (public drunkenness and general excess).

Here's the official schedule of what you are supposed to do tomorrow if you are a student:

08.00 champagnefrukost (you should have porridge with your champagne, to follow tradition)
10.00 forsränning på Fyrisån (foam rafts mostly made by student groups with some theme or another; there are 93 entrants this year, for a "river" not much bigger than Hickory Creek, which is much smaller than the Mighty Mighty Huron)
12.00 silllunch (the city has official tasters, and their guide for the best canned herring just cam out in yesterday's paper)
15.00 mösspåtagning utanför universitetsbiblioteket (the president waves his official hat, and all the students wave their hats back)
efter 15.00 champagnegalopp
på kvällen majbrasa (check the newspaper's webpage to find the bonfire nearest you)

The city is ready, from what I can tell. Last weekend they dredged the river for bicycles, to keep people in the raft race from getting impaled when they fall off of their rafts (they brought up nearly 100 bikes). Lots of public toilets have been brought in, and they are being run by a charity, which is going to charge 10 SEK per use. Wood for bonfires has been piled up out at Gamla Uppsala, and in many other suburban locations, each one sponsored by a charity or a team or company or municipal employees or some group like that.

People have been talking about it since last week, of course. Everyone (professors, staff, other post-docs, current graduate students) reminisce about their favorite sista april, although some confess that they only managed to do the whole official day once or twice. People pick the events they want, but they always do one thing: they drink a lot. Here's one illustrative story, told by G., a graduate student in my department (in typical terse Swedish style):

"We went in a group. Then we lost one in the champagne race. We just lost him, and we never found him. But he was okay—at night, a group of volunteers come around, and they found him asleep at the castle wall [which is in the opposite direction of the race]. He couldn't remember how he got there. But he was fine."

G. and staff member L. also told me that this is the one day in Uppsala when you can drink alcohol in public, without getting in trouble with the police (who will be everywhere). "For lots of teenagers this will be their first drunk," said L., "and you will see them just lying on the ground in town." He and G. laughed. "You will see lots of drunk Swedes, which you will never see at other times," said G. They laughed again. "Yes, you will certainly see some bad behavior," said L. They both laughed proudly.

What are we doing tomorrow? For the night, we've decided we would like to go out to the Gamla Uppsala bonfire, because that's the biggest, most traditional, and the most pagan, held by the old burial mounds. There will also be a choir singing, presumably to help keep the witches away. For the day, we'll get up early and head into town, and see what happens. I hope to take lots of pictures. Happy Walpurgis Night Eve!

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