Valborgsfest, the Swedish celebration of spring, takes place outdoors. When celebrated in Sweden, the climate on April 30th is usually something between cold and frigid. And so when a couple dozen Swedish natives came together on a breezy evening in the Swedish Theological Institute courtyard in Jerusalem, to sing and to light a bonfire in t-shirts and sandals, it seemed to be a surreal experience for some.
For me it was surreal as well but for a completely different reason. I’ve never experienced Swedish culture and here I was able to gain this exciting peek into their rich culture right here in Jerusalem.
I’ve often walked along Hanvi’im Street and thought it a shame how little I know about the beautiful buildings along the street. And so having the opportunity to visit the institute which is situated in the architecturally and historically significant Tabor House at 58 Hanvi’im Street was a thrill in and of itself.
And then I walked in the gate and was immediately greeted with such warmth! Minister Torbjörn Ahlund, the temporary minister at the institute, put out his hand and introduced himself. Actually, everyone kept putting out their hands and introducing themselves. Besides Minister Ahlund, I met Maria Leppäkari, the director of the institute, Dr. Jesper Svartvik (the link is to a video of Svartvik speaking but first hear about him in the introduction), a professor of theology at the institute and at Lund University in Sweden and others.
The celebration took place in the picturesque garden behind the stunning house which was designed by Conrad Schick. After a couple of speeches by Maria Leppäkari and the consul general of Sweden in Jerusalem, Minister Ahlund and Dr. Jesper Svartvik led the guests in a few Swedish songs, part of the time standing by the traditional bonfire. The songs were about spring, students and amazing grace. The singing was concluded with the Swedish national anthem.
Afterwards people were again so friendly and over a 4-layered cake and kosher snacks we conversed about the Swedish language, religion and the significance of Valborgsfest.
How exciting to get a glimpse into other people’s traditions, and with people from all over the world congregated right here in Jerusalem, there is no shortage of new cultural experiences to be had.
This event was shared in Things to do in Jerusalem. Join the group for more info like this in the future.