Swedish spring celebration in Minneapolis


(A bonfire in a spring celebration near Husum, Sweden; Creative Commons courtesy of Mrs. Gemstone.)

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The day before May Day is traditionally when people all over Sweden build huge bonfires to ward off the remnants of winter. That spring celebration is now coming to Minneapolis, but with a contemporary twist, at the American Swedish Institute.

In the light of at least three burning bonfires, organizers plan to host bands and artists, as well as the all-important food and drink.

The American Swedish Institute’s Jenn Stromberg said the celebration, called Valborgsmässoafton in Swedish, has its roots in celebrations of the English Saint Walpurga.

Scott Pollock, director of exhibitions, collections and programs at the institute, said Swedes traditionally build bonfires and socialize during the spring celebration.

“It’s turned into a community event, it’s not something you’d do domestically in your own home,” Pollock said. Take “everything you have in the barn, put it into the big center courtyard and set it ablaze: a huge bonfire.”

Pollock said there will be at least three bonfires burning in the courtyard between the contemporary Nelson Cultural Center and Turnblad Castle. The courtyard will also host a stage for DJs and bands including the Teenage Moods and Dan Mariska and the Boys Choir, both of which have members that work at the American Swedish Institute.

The institute will serve local beer from Indeed Brewing and street food prepared by Fika, the institute’s restaurant. There will also be live artist performances and fire spinners.

The event starts at 7 p.m. tonight at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis. It will take place regardless of whether the weather is springlike or not.

Pollock said Swedes can sympathize with difficult weather.

“You’re way up north and it’s dark for so many months,” he said. “They do say that these celebrations in Sweden are just the way to just break out, have a great time and blow up spring.”