Monday, April 2, 2007


"Virpominen" is an old Karelian custom on Palm Sunday. The Finnish verb ‘virpoa’ comes from the Russian ‘verba’ meaning ‘willow.’ It has it's root in the Latin ‘verbanae,’ or ‘holy branches’.
Nowadays two old customs are mixed: In the western part of Finland people used to light big bonfires in the spring time to scare off bad witches. Over the years the witches stopped being bad in people's minds and children started to dress up as ones already in 19th century. In the mainly orthodox eastern Finland people used to wish good luck and health to each other by "virpominen". When you went to do that, you tapped your relatives, friends or neihgbours with willow twigs blessed in church on Saturday.
Yesterday, on Palm Sunday, you could see children dressed up as witches, holding decorated willow twigs in their hands, walking towards the houses in the area. One usually gets chocolate eggs, other candy or even some money for pay when one does the "virpominen".
In Eastern Finland you got the pay after a week, on Easter Saturday. Today you normally get it right away. That's probably the reason why it's so popular in Finland among children. Some people don't like the mixture of these two traditions very much and would prefer the "virpominen" being done without the witch costumes.

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