I’m one month late on this, but better late than never, right?
December 6 is Finnish Independence Day. It’s a pretty solemn day here in Finland. They take it very seriously. The stores are all closed. Image closing all the stores in the US…on a Saturday…in December…just a couple of weeks before the high holiest consumer day of the year, oh wait, I mean Christmas. Anyway, I can’t imagine that happening, even for Independence Day.
But in Finland, it does happen.
And in Finland, they take their pomp and circumstance seriously. There are speeches, people visit the graves of relatives to lay flowers and light candles, they watch war movies, burn blue and white candles in windows and watch the President and his wife shake hands with something like a million people for hours.
No joke here. The most watched TV show in the country is this spectacle. We saw this on TV for a few minutes. It reminded me of what you would see for some award show in the US, complete with red carpet, only more dignified because the Finnish are doing it.
Anyway, we went to the festivities. It was really interesting.
We heard a great rendition of Finlandia – Finland’s national song sung by the Men’s Choir of the University of Helsinki.
And we saw the students from the University carrying their torches, as is custom each year. When we got there, everyone was gathered in Senate Square. The custom is for the students to wear their student hats (that look like sailing hats) and carry torches in a procession across Helsinki from Kamppi cemetery to Senate Square. The image of all the torches is really impressive.
My takeaways – Finns take their Independence Day seriously. They actually contemplate the meaning of Independence. I think some of this is because Finland has only been independent since 1917, so there is still a fresh sense of what it means and how important it is. Plus, when you have Russia right next door, and God only knows what Putin will do next, you celebrate your Independence because you know it could be taken away.