Spring brings two notable student celebrations: May Day and Flora’s Day.  

The tradition of academic May Day festivities date back to the period of the Turku Academy in the 1810s and 1820s. The students of the Academy arranged a celebration on the first day of May, to which they invited the professors and teachers. The idea was to celebrate the university and its staff and to show the outside world their community spirit and power. The programme included speeches, games and students’ singing performances, which was a popular new phenomenon among the students in the 1810s.

After the Great Fire of Turku in 1827, the Academy was moved to Helsinki and the celebration tradition ceased. The tradition was revived in the 1830s and since 1840, the student celebration was arranged a couple of weeks later, on Flora’s Day, 13 May. At that time, the name Flora (Floora) was, for the first time, included in the almanac. The name originated from the Roman goddess of flowers and spring. There could not be a better day to celebrate the hopes of the fatherland than the day of growth and spring!

The significance of Flora’s Day grew due to the celebration arranged on the Kumtähti Manor in 1848, which featured the first performance of the Finnish national anthem, Maamme. Until the end of the 19th century, May Day and Flora’s Day competed to be the most important academic celebration of the spring. Finally, in the 1920s, the festivities began to settle on the first day of May. Consequently, the significance of Flora’s Day has diminished but it still is part of the Conferment of Master’s and Doctor’s Degrees Ceremony. On Flora’s Day, a garland binder is requested for her services and glasses are raised in her honour.

May Day became important for students also because of the student’s cap. During the early 19th century, students used to wear a uniform, the cap of which was either dark blue or black between the 1810s and 1860s. The white, black rimmed cap was introduced in 1865 and the black cap remained in winter use. So, it was May Day which started the cap’s summer season. Students wore the student cap all through the summer, until September 30th. In the autumn, after an evening party, they removed the caps from their heads exactly at midnight and put them solemnly into winter storage. This tradition remained until the 1950s.

The Jyväskylä Teacher Seminary welcomed spring with singing. On Seminary Hill, there is a large boulder called Ilokivi, around which the Seminary crowds gathered on May Day to sing in honour of spring. The singers offered their repertoire to often very large audiences because the boulder was close to the town’s most popular walking street.

The photo shows members of the Seminary community around Ilokivi in spring 1925.

Leave a Reply

  Subscribe  
Notify of

Get latest articles from The University of Jyväskylä’s stakeholder magazine into your email. You can cancel your subscription at any time.