Student traditions

Like every country, Finland has its own cultural traditions that vary regionally. In addition, student life brings its own traditions to Finnish culture, which you will see during your stay here.

Student caps and overalls

In Finland, when you pass your matriculation exam and graduate from high school, you can wear the white student cap, studentmössa. This is something to be proud of, and the graduation ceremony, where the cap is worn for the first time, is an important occasion. At university, students wear the student cap on a number of occasions.

One of these is 30 April, when Åbo Akademi students gather to celebrate the start of Wappen, the first of May. Another is Finland’s Independence Day, 6 December, during a procession to the graves of war heroes.

During your stay in Finland, you will also surely see students dressed in overalls in different colours. Overalls are particularly used at special events and parties by students in Finland and Sweden. The student associations offer the students the chance to buy an overall during the freshman year, and the colours vary according to faculty and field of study.

It is customary to personalize the overalls, and they are almost invariably decorated with various badges, souvenirs and inexpensive gadgets. There’s also a practice of swapping a part of the overall with another person, typically with a partner. Also badges are readily swapped, especially amongst friends who are of different associations.


As an initiation process in the fall, many of the student associations organise their own so called ”gulnäbbsintagning” which is a set of small competitions and challenges for the new students. Students compete in teams, and if you want to you can sign up for one of the events. You will recognize the events from the black plastic bags that the students wear, as well as from their noses which are painted yellow. This is because a new student at ÅAU is called “gulnäbb”, Swedish for “yellow beak”.

Gulnäbbsakademin  – Fresher’s Fair

The Fresher’s Fair, arranged in September in Åbo and Vasa and is an opportunity for student associations to present their activities and recruit new members. This is also a great chance for international students to find a student association or several to join up with, so do not hesitate to attend.

Lilla Wappen

Lilla Wappen marks the end of the summer. Back in the day, when being a student was highly reputed in society, students used to wear their student caps all summer and only put them away for the winter. Lilla Wappen is a reminder of that time. Traditionally, there is a party at the end of September, and at midnight the students takes off their caps and turns them inside out.

Independence Day – 6 December

Finland’s Independence Day is a quiet festivity compared to many other countries. Usually people stay at home with family and eat dinner, and watch the President’s annual independence ball.

The student unions of Turku organize a procession to the cemetery in order to honor the memory of those who died in the wars, while the student in Vasa’s procession go to the city square.

Fastlaskiainen – Shrove Tuesday

Fastlaskiainen is the common celebration among the Finnish- and Swedish Universities in Åbo and Vasa, and the name of the event is a combination of the Finnish word Laskiainen and the Swedish word Fastlag. This winter day in February is celebrated through sleigh competitions at the hill called Vårdberget in Åbo and at Fiskarstranden in Vasa. Shrove Tuesday buns are also a must for this day.

Pampas Nationaldag – The National Day of Pampas

The nickname Pampas is used for the flatlands of Österbotten, the area surrounding Vasa. The National day of Pampas is a day to celebrate it. The day starts with competitions between different teams from the Swedish-speaking universities and continues all day until the olympic finals in the afternoon. The festivities carry on all night until dawn when breakfast is served. This is the biggest party of the year among the Swedish-speaking students in Vasa.

Wappen – Walpurgis – 30 April

Wappen, also known as Vappu or Valborg, is one of the most important student festivities.

In Åbo there is a picnic by the river on the last day of April, and in the evening all the Swedish speakers of Åbo gather at Vårdberget to hear the televised speech of the president of the Student Union board, as well as spring songs by the choirs Brahe Djäknar and Florakören. Afterwards there is usually an event at Kåren, and on the First of May, Vårdberget is filled with picnickers – both students and families.

In Vasa the students gather at the church square in front of the old Lyceum to listen to the songs of the university choir Pedavoces. A speech is given for the students and the statue of Zacharias Topelius receives its student cap. After this the students arrange picknicks in the park around the Court House, or meet at the restaurant Strampen.