On December 6th Finland celebrates its independence. Here is what you need to know about this special day.
Finland for a long time was a part of Sweden (from the 13th century to the beginning of 19th). In 1809 Finland became a part of the Russian Empire as a Grand Duchy.
On December 6th 1917 the Finnish parliament adopted the Declaration of Independence.
But December 6th is not so much about the Declaration. Independence is understood broadly, and this is why there are some activities on this day related to later events (the Winter War and the Continuation War, in particular).
Traditions & festivities
Independence Day starts with an official ceremony of raising the national flag at Tähtitorninmäki (“Observatory Hill”).
At the Helsinki Cathedral there is a church service to commemorate war veterans.
Students and local residents gather together in a torch procession in different cities to attend memorials and cemeteries, where the war veterans are buried.
Blue and white candles
It’s also part of a tradition to light white and blue candles in the windows. Originally, candles were set on Ludvig Runeberg’s (famous Finnish poet) birthday as a protest against Russian oppression.
There is also an alternative explanation to this. Some Finnish young men went to Germany to get a military training in 1910s to fight the Russians (the Jäger movement). Lighting candles was an informal sign to these volunteers that a family is ready to provide them with a shelter and hide from the Russian authorities.
Bakeries offer Independence Day pastries with various white and blue ornaments.
Linnan Juhlat – Castle Ball
Since 1919 the President invites around 2000 guests for an official reception at the President Palace (which, interestingly enough, used to be an official residence of the Russian Tzar/Emperor/Grand Duke of Finland). The ceremony is broadcasted on a national TV, and the hosts are making comments about guests and their outfits. It’s like a local Oscar, but with all kind of celebrities – writers, singers, sportsmen, politicians.
“The Unknown Soldier”
The legendary movie about the Winter War between Finland and the USSR is always on TV this day.
If you want to know more
Here is a very good overview of the Independence day with some really interesting comments from historians and videos from some old gala evenings.
This book is one of the best books on history I’ve ever read. It focuses more on underlying motives, moods, ideas that caused certain events or why particular choices were made. Very interesting reading!
Hyvää Itsenäisyyspäivää kaikille!