May Day – the celebration of students, workers and spring – is here again. For students, the festivities officially begin on 30 April when a student cap is placed on the Havis Amanda statue at the Market Square, after which others can follow suit and put their own caps on.
The statue is washed at 17.00 and the cap is placed on her head at 18.00. This year the Student Union of Aalto University is responsible for the proceedings.
The statue has received a hat every year from the year 1932 onwards. Until the 1970s, Havis Amanda received her cap at the stroke of midnight as April turned into May. Today, the student unions in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area take turns with the capping responsibilities.
This May Day also marks the beginning of the celebrations for the 150-year history of the student cap.
Choirs and picnics on May Day
On May Day, the student celebrations begin at 9.00 on Ullanlinnanmäki. The programme will feature speeches from student unions in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area as well as performances by the Ylioppilaskunnan laulajat male choir.
The University of Helsinki Student Union will also distribute badges for student overalls commemorating the anniversary year of the student cap.
Ullanlinnanmäki will host crowds of past and current students as well as other revellers equipped with picnic lunches.
Every fifth Finn has a student cap
The student cap is a remnant of a uniform that Emperor Nicholas I of Russia decreed all students should wear. He hoped the uniforms would placate the rioting and disruptive student body. The expensive and uncomfortable uniform was retired after the death of Emperor Nicholas, but students retained the cap as their symbol – although at the time its colour was blue.
Later the colour of the caps became white to emulate the Swedish tradition. Today the 150-year-old student cap is worn by nearly every fifth Finn on May Day.
The University Museum, opened on the third floor of the University's Main Building in March, features student caps from different eras as well as a special student cap model for ladies. Go see what the student uniforms looked like!
The history of the student cap will be discussed in more detail at the University as a nation building panel discussion on 20 May.