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May Day weather always seem lousy? Statistics say otherwise

Figures from the Finnish Meteorological Institute show that Finland's weather on May Day has been a good balance of warm and sunny vs. snowy and cold over the last forty years.

Juhlijoita Ullanlinnanmäellä.
Image: Leila Oksa / Yle

Every year on April 30th and May 1st, the hearty Finns gather in large numbers in the great outdoors to celebrate the arrival of spring – even if the weather makes it feel more like winter will never end.

But recent figures from the Finnish Meteorological Institute show that in actuality, the weather has been equally warm and cold over the last decades at this time of the year.

In a table of weather figures from the last 40 years in Helsinki, for example, just 19 May Days had some form of precipitation fall, and just 5 of these Vappus in recent memory had snow.

Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka

Even in the far-north municipality of Ivalo, only 22 of the last 40 May Days saw snowfall. On average, the cut-off line for snow on May Day traverses from the city of Oulu in the west to north of Ilomantsi in the east.  

In Helsinki, the snowiest Vappu on record was in 1941, when there were 27 centimetres of snow on the ground. In 1957, the university students skied to the Ullanlinnamäki Park in some twenty centimetres of slush.

1967 Vappu parade in a sleet storm Video: Elävä arkisto

But it is possible to enjoy a warm May Day in other areas besides the south. Between 1981 and 2015, the Lapland hub of Rovaniemi has had only one May Day in which temperatures were sub-zero all day, in 1981. There are many incidents there of temperatures past ten degrees Celsius for Vappu.

When the weather is beautiful, Finns grow concerned about the risk of accidents. In 1993, the mercury soared to 16.6 degrees Celsius on May Day.

"May Day celebrations have proceeded peacefully in Finland. Despite the beautiful weather drawing great crowds, serious accidents have been avoided," reported Yle anchor Marjukka Havumäki in the 1993 news round-up.

May Day 1993 Yle news broadcast Video: Elävä arkisto

Finnish Meteorological Institute records for temperatures in the capital city date back to the year 1829. They show that the warmest May Day took place in 1998, when the May Day eve temperature reached 18.9 degrees Celsius and the May Day temperature peaked at 19.3.

And for those of you who have already forgotten last year's Vappu: the spring record was recorded in the easternmost city of Ilomantsi on May Day 2016: 19.5 degrees.

Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka

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