In Finland, many people associate Vappy celebrations with the creamy white student cap. Most people dust off their caps for the long-awaited Vappu Eve, when even Ville Vallgren’s Havis Amanda is crowned with her own enlarged version of the student cap. However, the current situation is quite different from the early origins of the hat. Unlike the older dark blue student cap, the tradition of the white cap found its way into the Finnish student world in the mid-19th century, through students at the University of Helsinki. At a time when headwear was a more common part of the cityscape than it is today, the dark blue student cap became a headgear for winter and the creamy white the one for the summer.
Despite the old traditions surrounding the student cap, the crowning of Havis Amanda on Vappu Eve has a much more recent history. What began as a prank in the early 1900s has since grown into a celebration that attracts an audience of over 50,000 people each year. For many, the occasion marks a grand welcome to spring filled with tradition, doughnuts and song. But what role does the creamy white cap actually fulfill today?
Student or student tradition
In 1980, the student unions in Helsinki collectively took over responsibility for organizing the ceremonies surrounding the festivities, with a rotating system in place to divide the responsibility between the years. Today, the collective consists of the student unions AYY, HUS, KonSt and SHS. The ceremonies usually begin with the traditional washing of Havis Amanda, after which the student cap can be crowned on the statue’s head and sparkling drinks can flow. In student circles, Vappu celebrations are not confined to Vappu or May Day, but begin several days before. The student union responsible for the festivities also organizes various ceremonies to celebrate the mission several weeks before Vappu.
Although the student cap and its various ceremonies are still celebrated with bells and whistles, the basis for its use has become more general, as it is now associated with matriculation examinees in Finland and not just students of the University of Helsinki, despite the old Apollo signia on the cap. Nowadays, vocational graduates are also seen wearing their own version of the student cap.
It’s common for traditions to change in order to adapt to the ever-changing society. For the student cap, it has gone from a piece of headwear crowning the heads of distinguished fashion-conscious students at the University of Helsinki to headwear worn during the festivities celebrating study-related achievements.
This year, HUS will crown Havis Amanda on 30.4.2022 and the theme of the festivities will be caring. Specifically, “caring for our own and others’ well-being, our community and how we build our common future”. The theme is fitting as a celebration for a return to a normal Vappu celebration after two years of distant arrangements, but could also be extended as reflecting on the current traditions and seeing if there is anything that could possibly be improved for the future. Is there a reason why one third of the Helsinki student community is not included in the organizations of the celebration? ASK would like to see a future where all students in the capital region are treated equally and have the same opportunities to be involved in the planning of the crowning of Havis Amanda.