image © Darius Cotoi

Spring Holidays of Ancient Finland

In the agricultural society, all holidays were connected to the land. Spring was the time sowing, ploughing and other farm works. To this list, I have collected Finnish spring holidays which majority (if not all) have pagan origins.

Maaliskuu — March

Derived from the word maa meaning earth. Soil and dirt were revealing itself when the snow was melting.

Kevätpäiväntasaus / Matopäivä — Spring Equinox, day of the snakes 20–21.3
Nature wakes up. Day of Akka the earth goddess. It was believed that snakes and worms woke up from the hibernations and gathered into the fields to dance. Shaking of the earth woke Akka from her sleep.

Mato-Pentti — Worm Pentti 21.3
Snakes rise to enjoy the sunlight

Marjan päivä — the day of Marja 25.3
Day of the Virgin Mary. Mother of life.

Virposunnuntai — Virpo Sunday (the week before Easter)
Virpominen is a Finnish easter custom. Bundle of willow twigs are used for casting spells for good luck for friends, neighbours and family members. Custom is still practised today by children in Western Finland each Easter.

Easter Week (you can read more about Finnish Easter celebration customs here).

Kiirastorstai — Maundy Thursday
People cast spells to keep away kiira´s, evil spirits that were sent by vicious people.

Lanka-Lauantai (string Saturday) — Holy Saturday
Powerful day for witches. Spells performed in cross-roads at midnight were extremely powerful.

Huhtikuu — April

Derived from the word huhta which is an old word for a broomstick or a bundle. Other old names of the month were sulamakuu (melting month) suvikuu (summer month) and kiimakuu (the heath month). Nature is filled with life and birds are mating. First butterflies appear.

Suviyöt ja Suvipäivä — Summer nights and summer day 12–14.4
Beginning of summer. Cattle was released to the fields.

Jyrin päivä — day of Jyri 23.4
Cattle were let to wander in the forest and were protected with spells. Sacrifices were given for the forest elves and the protector spirits of the cattle.

Markun päivä — day of Markku 25.4
Farming began in southern Finland. Time to forecast the summer weather.

Toukokuu — May

​Derived from an old Finnish word Touko meaning growth. Planting begins.

Hela, Vappu, Valpuri — May Day 1.5
Mayday festival. Included music, dancing and drinking mead. Little girls attached bells into their feet. Pagan name of the holiday was Hela. Time for witches to charge their powers. Bonfires were lit to keep evil spirits away.

During the time of Catholicism celebration was turned into St. Valpurg´s day. At the beginning of the 19th century, the name was changed again into Vappu, the international worker´s day. In modern-day Finland vappu is mainly the holiday of students.

Ristin päivä — Day of the cross 3.5
Last day to let cattle outside. Day of the fishermen. In Savonia start of a sow.

Kevätmiikkula 9.5
Horses were let to graze in the forest and were protected with spells. Hay starts to grow.

Helluntai 10.5
Time of dancing and flirting.

Erkin päivä — Day of Erkki 18.5
Beginning of summer.

Urpon päivä — day of Urpo 25.5
The weather starts to get warm. New vihtas (bundles) were made for saunas. End of ploughing.

Pikkukesä — Little Summer (end of May)
Nature is blossoming

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Niina's Fairychamber

Illustrator, writer and folklorist. Likes cats, tea and period dramas. A host of the Little Women Podcast.