Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What’s with the white cap?


Vappu is all about the white student’s cap that was already mentioned in several posts before. Now here comes some background information on this special hat and its meaning and tradition.


Introduced in the 1870s it was just given to those who earned the right to study at a university though passing the entrance exam. It was worn by students during their summer vacation which traditionally started at Vappu and lasted till the end of September. Nowadays Finns get the cap after graduating from high school and wear it every year on the two days of Vappu (April 30th and May 1st).

The golden cockade at the front of the cap shows lyra of Apollo and represents the University of Helsinki. It is sold with this symbol all over Finland. Universities in other parts of the country recommend their students to replace the cockade with the symbol of their university though.

Even the size of the cockade has a meaning. The bigger ones with 22 mm diameter are worn by the Swedish speaking, the smaller ones with 16 mm diameter by Finnish speaking students.

Finns have a very special connection to their caps. After receiving your cap you keep it for the rest of your life. It’s never to be replaced and also never to be washed. That also explains why some of them have a rather yellow then white color. This might not just indicate how old the cap is but also how well it is treated by its owner.

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