Monday. 08.08.2022

Coronavirus forces Finns to celebrate Vappu under strict restrictions

Government reminds citizens that the restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people are still in force and the police will be monitoring compliance. Authorities launched a website with events and a campaign with the hashtag #virtuaalivappu to encourage citizens to celebrate this party online.


Young students celebrating Vappu before the pandemic, in Tampere in 2017. Photo: Laura-Vanzo.
Finnish students celebrating Vappu in the traditional way. Photo: Laura-Vanzo/Visti Tampere.

Vappu (or Vappupäivä) is one of the largest and most celebrated holidays in Finland. Although its origins date back to at least the 9th century, since the late 19th century it has become the quintessential party for students who finish the school year.

Traditionally Vappu is celebrated on the eve of May 1. And that day thousands of students, -and former students of all ages- gather to parade and picnic in public parks.

They do so dressed in their overalls (Haalarit, in Finnish), each of the color related to their field of study and with their white caps (Ylioppilaslakki), a symbol of having obtained an academic education. They eat and drink together to bid farewell to the academic year and welcome spring.

Vappu-2017--by-Laura-VanzoFinnish students with their traditional white caps in Tampere. Photo: Laura Vanzo/Visit Tampere.

Vappu in times of epidemic

But this year everything may be different, because of the coronavirus pandemic (koronavirus, in Finnish). Because this year, the authorities are encouraging people to spend vappu with their families at home, in their yards or nearby.

The Finnish Ministry of the Interior has issued a press release to remind citizens that the restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people are still in force. For that reason, people should not gather at traditional vappu meeting places, as authorities fear that many small groups could quickly grow into larger groups with hundreds of people.

“Thanks for slowing down the COVID-19 epidemic in Finland are due to everyone who has helped by acting responsibly. That said, the situation may change rapidly if people meet for mass gatherings.  During a celebration, it is easy to forget about safe distances and hygiene guidelines. This could make it impossible to trace transmission chains later on,” Minister of the Interior Maria Ohisalo says.

“But that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate vappu. Vappu is not cancelled – we are now celebrating it at home, out in our yards and virtually,” explained Minister Ohisalo.

From quarantine concerts to sima tastings

The Ministry of the Interior and the police have launched the #virtuaalivappu campaign, which encourages people to deviate from traditions and celebrate vappu on the web, in line with the restrictions on gatherings. The website provides information about vappu online events and answers to questions about COVID-19 and vappu.

According to Government information, this website has put together "the most entertaining tips for how to spend your time on the day before vappu and on vappu itself." Artists, influencers, student organisations, communities, businesses, cities and municipalities have registered their free vappu livestreams that are open to all

Social media influencers are also taking part in the campaign. 

One influencer planning his own livestream is Tuure Boelius, a YouTuber and artist who is encouraging his followers to celebrate virtual vappu on Instagram and TikTok. Instagram influencers Hanna Sumari, Juhani Koskinen, Päivi Sappinen, Emmi Nuorgam, Hanne Kettunen, Inari Fernández, Dosdela, Joonas Pesonen and A-lapset are also taking part.

Protect people

Government said the campaign is motivated by the authorities’ concerns about people complying with the restrictions on gatherings during vappu.

While the police will be monitoring compliance with the restrictions on gatherings and restaurants, the responsibility for following them and for ensuring responsible behaviour ultimately rests with people themselves.

"For May Day celebrations this year, people must not gather in large groups in the streets or parks of downtown Helsinki. This is something everyone has to take responsibility for, and parents should remind their children too not to gather in large groups in public places," emphasises Helsinki Police Department Superintendent Seppo Kujala.

Parents are also responsible for making sure minors follow the recommendations and restrictions.

Other authorities in the administrative branch of the Ministry of the Interior and the Government as a whole are also involved in the campaign.

Coronavirus forces Finns to celebrate Vappu under strict restrictions