Did you know Valborg is named after a British saint?
Where does the name come from?
Walpurgis Night (also Walpurgis Eve) is the English translation of Valborgsmässoafton (Swedish) or 'Walpurgisnacht', one of the Dutch and German names for the night of 30th April, so called because it is the eve of the feast day of Saint Walpurga.
Who was St. Walpurga?
Walpurga or Walburga (Old English: Wealdburg) was an 8th-century English missionary to the Frankish Empire, which included large parts of modern day Germany and France. She was born in Devon in the UK in 710 AD and moved to Francia to assist Saint Boniface, her mother's brother, in evangelising among Germans. Walpurga became a nun in the double monastery of Heidenheim am Hahnenkamm, later became the abbess (head person) and died in Bavaria aged 69. She was canonised (made a saint) on 1 May ca. 870 by Pope Adrian II. Walpurgis Night is the name for the eve of her day, which coincides with May Day.
Has she any special powers?
St. Walpurga is invoked as special patroness against hydrophobia and in storms, and also by sailors. In simpler terms, this means that it’s supposed to be a good idea to pray to her if you get caught in a storm at sea or suffer from an irrational fear of water.
The night is also called Hexennacht in German or heksennach in Dutch, literally "Witches' Night". As with most European traditions, Walpurgis Night has roots in ancient pagan customs and festivals. Most festivals on 30th April celebrate fire and the coming of the spring, as well as warding off evil spirits.
How to explain Valborgsmässoafton to a Brit
As most British people have never heard of Walpurgis Night let alone Valborgsmässoafton, the best way to describe the occasion is ‘a bit like bonfire night in Britain but without a guy on top of the bonfire and fewer fireworks’.
If you manage to remember the name “Walpurgis Night”, you’ve one up on the average British person.
Happy Walpurgis Night from all of us at the London School of English!
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