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Valborg Bonfire

Vasa National Archives to host a Spring Bonfire


Experience an ancient Swedish traditional Valborg bonfire as we welcome spring’s return at the Vasa National Archives and Vasa Lodge Bishop Hill #683 on April 26 at 6pm. Yard games and activities will be available to the whole family. Hot dogs for roasting, buns, coffee, iced tea, and hot chocolate will be provided. This event is free and open to the public. Visitors are encouraged to bring a dish to share. 


The history of Valborg goes back to Viking era.  Pre-Christian Swedes held spring bonfires to herald the onset of the growth season. It attempted to ward off evil, ensure fertility and cleanse the land of the dead of winter. Today, it marks the gateway to longer and warmer days.


Early Christians merged the pagan spring bonfires with celebrations of Saint Walpurga, who was canonized on May 1 ca. 870. Due to her holy day falling on the same day, her name became associated with the celebrations. Walpurga was honored in the same way that Vikings had celebrated spring and as they spread throughout Europe, the two dates became mixed together and created the Walpurgis Night celebration. 


Valborg continued to be useful celebration into the early modern era. Swedish farmers kept their livestock penned up in barns until early May to protect them from the weather and predators. Farming villages and farmers used the Valborg bonfires and celebratory noises to scare away any predators lurking near. A few days after being let out of the barn, the livestock would be herded to the summer pastures.


The Vasa National Archives will have Kubb, a Viking-era game that has survived to the present, bean bag toss and a craft station for visitors to enjoy. Visitors will enjoy roasting hot dogs over a fire and meeting with friends and neighbors. In the event of rain, the festivities will be moved to the Vasa National Archive’s second floor.


The Vasa National Archives is located at 109 S. Bishop Hill St., Bishop Hill, IL. For more information please contact, the Vasa National Archives at or 309-927-3898.


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