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Happy Walpurgis Eve!

Today, April 30, marks Walpurgis or Valborgsmässoafton. A holiday celebrated in, among other places, Germany and Sweden. The name is derived from the Saint Walpurgis. In Sweden, the Swedish form of Walpurgis, Valborg, has her name day on May 1, making April 30 the Eve of Walpurgis.

The holiday, marked by bonfires, singing, and a welcoming of spring, is particularly well-celebrated in Swedish university towns like Lund and Uppsala. My colleague, Jenny, also informs me that it is enthusiastically celebrated in Heidelberg, Germany.

Although consumption of alcohol in public spaces is prohibited in Sweden, this is a day when university students gather in parks to drink and be merry. This year, however, like other holidays around the world (think Carnival in Brazil), the holiday has been effectively cancelled by local governments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, in the city of Lund, home to Lund University, last year’s Valborg was cancelled by the use of drones and spreading of manure in parks, while this year the city is fencing off parks to prevent gatherings.

In Uppsala, home to Sweden’s largest and Scandinavia’s oldest university, Uppsala University, the local government has closed parks and cancelled all other traditional celebrations by the municipality. Uppsala University itself has cancelled its celebrations. The dean of the university has promised that the celebration will be back next year, offering a designated Valborg celebration app as a substitute this year.

Picture of Uppsala University library Carolina Rediviva

Photo of Carolina Rediviva (ca 1900) by Flickruser Upplandsmuseet Länsmuseum för Uppsala län. Used under Creative Commons License, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.

In addition to being (in)famous for its Valborg celebration, Uppsala University is famous for many other things, including being the alma mater of Carl von Linnea, world famous botanist who categorized plants, and Anders Celsius, who invented the Celsius temperature scale. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Carolina Rediviva, the university library. Not only is it the backdrop of the Uppsala Valborg celebration as thousands of students (and former students) gather in front of the building for the “donning of the caps” (mösspåtagning) and to welcome spring by song, it is also the home to the Codex Argenteus (the “Silver Bible”).

You can learn more about Uppsala University’s digitization project of the codex at Codex Argenteus Online – The Project. Another digital resource on the Silver Bible can be found in Codex Argenteus and its Printed Editions, by Lars Munkhammar.

The text of the Codex Argenteus is also available on microfilm at the Library of Congress: Codex Argenteus (Upsaliae, C. A. Leffler, 1854) and also electronically through the Haiti Trust Digital Library.

Glad Valborg!

Happy Walpurgis Eve!

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