May Day or Vappu in Finland is a celebration of spring. In the past it has had a stronger association with the blue collar workers, their demonstrations and speeches on behalf of their rights. Today the festivities have become more carnival and street party-like with paper streamers, silly string, balloons and picnic brunches. Students across the country place the gradution cap on statues. The capping of the Havis Amanda statue in Helsinki draws thousands of spectators. I was there watching one year amongst the thousands and as the capping had been completed the crowd just swept me with it as it left the area.
Since it is a day off for the whole nation it has become a national party day. Everyone can pick and choose which traditions they wish to carry on. Our family celebrates it in a fairly low key manner. Sometimes we have hosted a barbeque, sometimes we just take it easy and enjoy homemade donuts and sima. Sima is a fizzy lemonade made with brown sugar, lemon juice and a little bit of yeast.
Recipe for Sima (taken from the side of our brown sugar package)
4 l/4.2 qts water
250 g/8.8 oz brown sugar
250 g/8.8 oz sugar
juice of 1-2 lemons
1/5 tsp of fresh yeast (about the size of a pea)
Boil half of the water and pour it over the sugars and stir. Add the rest of the water (cool water) and allow to cool to a luke warm. Dissolve the yeast in a small amount of liquid and add it to the Sima. Allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours. Bottle the sima, adding a teaspoon of sugar and a few raisins in each bottle. Do not tighten the bottle lids tightly as it will produce gas. The sima is ready for use when the raisins have risen to the surface. If the bottles are kept at room temperature the process takes about three days, in the refrigerator it takes about a week.
When it is ready I have tightened the lid and placed in the refrigerator. Enjoy cold with fresh donuts. For a more darker Sima, double the amount of brown sugar and leave out the sugar.
For the Vappu donuts, I use the pulla dough recipe. After the dough has risen, I make little balls and then punch holes through the middle. Fry them in canola oil making sure that the oil is not too hot so that the donut has time to cook on the inside. Sugar immediately.