Was last night Walpurgis [Night|Eve] or May Day Eve?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/05/01 03:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2008/05/01/8446501.aspx

Yesterday in Outlook, the holiday story was an interesting one:

We'll leave the Queen aside for a moment. :-)

The other two holidays put me in mind of a book -- Martin Cruz Smith's Gorky Park, which had the following in it:

"...Now you must excuse me; I am off duty, and I have a long drive home for the holiday."
    "For May Day," Arkady said.
    "Walpurgis Night." The Finn enjoyed correcting him. "Witches' sabbath."

Now obviously one should not depend on random bits of fiction to guide knowledge of holidays, but I was having trouble trying to make all of this fit.

Is it a flaw in the book? An omission in Outlook? A change in the holidays that people observe?

I looked in Wikipedia under Walpurgis Night (there was no Walpurgis Eve article) and May Day (there was no May Day Eve article) and suddenly it did look more like Outlook was perhaps taking sides if nothing else pushing the May Day thing. But it is hard to say.

I really have no idea now.

Any Finns want to chime in here as to what is going on exactly? :-)

Today's holidays have their own problems in Outlook, I'll talk about them tomorrow....


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# Bart Samwel on 1 May 2008 6:00 AM:

Still, the Queen's Birthday is not correct either. The official name of the holiday is "Koninginnedag", which means "Queen's Day", nothing more. And it's actually not the current queen's birthday, because the current queen was born on January 31st. It is the *previous* queen's birthday though. It was probably retained on April 30 because January 31 is not really a good time to hold flea markets, and run around the streets all night partying. (It will become really interesting when the crown prince Willem Alexander takes over. His birthday is pretty early in the year as well, so it'll probably stay on the same day, but be called "King's Day" or something.)

Interestingly, Queen's Day is also renowned for Queen's Night (which Outlook would probably describe as Queen's Day's Eve :-) ), which is a whole night of outside partying, with open-air concerts and the whole shebang. Does Outlook show that one as well?

# Michael S. Kaplan on 1 May 2008 7:38 AM:

Outlook messes that one up completely -- it is why I mentioned it but said to set it aside. :-)

They do not have the day before as anything....

# g on 1 May 2008 9:27 AM:

I think ...

1. Walpurgis Eve = Walpurgis Night = the night between 04-30 and 05-01.

2. St Walpurga's Day = 05-01, but no one takes much notice of that.

3. The book isn't claiming that WN = evening of 05-01. (If you need to drive somewhere for a daytime holiday on 05-01, you'll leave on 04-30. Same if it's for a night-time celebration on 04-30/05-01.)

4. There's nothing very specifically Swedish (or Finnish) about WN.

# John Cowan on 1 May 2008 10:32 AM:

I don't understand what the confusing part is supposed to be.

May 1 is both St. Walpurga's day and May Day, in either case a survival of paganism.  Like many old holidays and all Jewish ones, it begins at sunset the day before.  So it is correct to speak of April 30 as being Walpurga's night, like December 24 being "erev Christmas" (I have actually had occasion to use this expression) and Halloween being the day before All Hallow's Day, November 1.  Outlook is not getting it wrong here.

As for Gorky Park, it's a matter of emphasis: Arkady thinks of May Day as International Labor Day, a modern secularized strictly-daylight holiday; "the Finn" is using the older sunset-to-sunset form still current in Finland.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 1 May 2008 10:41 AM:

Looking at the article and other places on Walpurgis Night, there is secular interest in moving away from Walpurgis and emphasizing May Day, though there is still heavy interest in it as Walpurgis -- yet Outlook does not add such a holiday. Someone's agenda?

# John Cowan on 2 May 2008 12:48 AM:

What would you expect it to add?  Outlook thinks in terms of midnight-to-midnight days, so April 30 is both Walpurgis Eve and May Day eve.  I'd expect it to list May Day on May 1.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 2 May 2008 12:52 AM:

I was thinking more along the lines of a Walpurgis Eve for Finland, where it seems at least as reasonable/relevant as May Day Eve. Not just because of the reference in fiction, mind you (which was just what brought it to mind for me), but because the actual usage in country.

# Kimmo Vilhunen on 2 May 2008 2:30 AM:

Just thought I'd be the Finn chiming in.. On one hand, we're having the Walpurgis Night thing on April 30., with silly costumes, balloon and paper strings. This has lent the name to the whole thing, vappu or valpurinpäivä (the day of Walpurg).

On the other hand, on May 1. we're having the Finnish Worker's Day with political speeches and such, which I think might be closer to the May Day thing.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 2 May 2008 2:43 AM:

Interesting... very interesting. :-)

I wonder how common it would be for someone in Finland to add holidays from Sweden to their list? This does seem like a very strange omission (though it fits with many other problems in Outlook holiday support).

# Peter Karlsson on 2 May 2008 7:41 AM:

Walpurgis night (Valborgsmässoafton in Swedish; ‘[the] Eve [of the] mass [of] Walpurgis’) is April 30th, and is celebrated in Sweden as the day when spring arrives, with bonfires, fireworks and the like.

May Day (Första maj; ‘First [day of] May’) is celebrated on May 1st, as labour day. The days have no connection with each other whatsoever, except that they happen to occur on two consecutive days.

And since it is traditional (for some) to drink vast amounts of alcoholic beverages whenever there is a night of celebration in Sweden, the fact that the day after Walpurgis Night is a holiday is not a bad thing for those people :-)

So, to answer your question, in a sense it is both, but in another sense it was just the one.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 2 May 2008 11:02 AM:

Yikes! So really it is not so right for either country -- each is missing a holiday, and one of the ones not missed is named inconsistently with what people expect (the latter is what I thought when I first read the article, but the former is interesting as well).

# John Cowan on 2 May 2008 2:50 PM:

I guess in summary what is weird is the name "May Day Eve" in English ("Christmas Day Eve" would sound weird too, frankly) as it doesn't seem to properly represent the Finnish and Swedish names used in Finland.  The English form should be "Walpurgis Eve", as shown for Sweden.

I assume that May 1 shows names like "International Labor Day" (US, CA) and "Labor Day" (elsewhere), modulo the spelling of "Labor".

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referenced by

2015/05/01 Happy Walpurgis Day?!?

2008/05/08 Support of Holi^h^h^^hDAZE, in Outlook (aka Situations when competition might help customers)

2008/05/05 Note to Outlook: Koninginnedag isn't the reigning Queen's Birthday

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