Vappu – First of May
On the first day of May, you will most likely encounter lots of people with graduation hats (looking a lot like sailor hats) having a picnic in the park, drinking “sima” and eating “tippaleipä”. Students have been celebrating Vappu for two weeks already, all wearing their overalls of different colours representing their own student associations and universities. You might also see a kid or two crying because they just let go of their Vappu balloons and they flew away. Luckily, they will forget about it quite soon, as they are distracted by blowing serpentine everywhere. The upcoming summer makes everyone feel happy and excited, even if it is still snowing in the park.
Juhannus (Midsummer) – End of June
In the end of June, around the time of the summer solstice when the day is the longest, the cities get quiet and the roads get full of people escaping to the country side to their lake houses. Girls like to make beautiful flower crowns, and the boys might be busy grilling BBQ food and heating up the sauna. In the evening, a big bonfire is lit and one might find themselves dancing around its flames. There is no time more peaceful for a dip in the lake other than early morning hours of midsummer. And if you are lucky, with the help of some midsummer magic and traditional spells, you might even catch a glimpse of your future spouse in your sleep.
Independence Day – 6th of December
Quite contrary to the big and flashy independence celebrations in some other countries, in Finland the Independence Day is a peaceful day to respect our veterans and their sacrifices. During the day, a lot of Finnish people gather around the television to watch one of the most important Finnish movies of all times, the Unknown Soldier. The film based on the Väinö Linna novel was filmed in 1955, and tells the story of ordinary Finnish soldiers during the second world war. After this, it is common to go to the closest cemetery to light up a candle and have a moment of silence for the soldiers. The evening often continues with a dinner, perhaps some reindeer stew with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam. Traditionally, two half-blue, half-white candles are lit, whilst watching the Independence Day Reception. Watching famous Finnish people shake hands with our president for a couple of hours is one of the most popular television programs in Finland, and the next day people are always discussing the best and the worst dressed.
Christmas Eve – 24th of December
Probably the most popular Holiday associated with Finland is Christmas. During December, Lapland is packed with tourists wanting to experience the Christmas magic, even for one day only! However, the real Finnish Christmas is not quite like all the hassle of the tourist spots. People travel to their grandparent’s house to celebrate Christmas peacefully with their loved ones. In the morning, kids love to watch Santa’s Hotline while decorating the Christmas tree. At 12 o’clock. the Christmas peace is declared in Turku (and all the kids are warned about not fighting during Christmas because of the peace), a tradition that has been taking place since the 14th century. The parents are busy preparing traditional Christmas foods, such as casseroles and Christmas ham, while the kids keep pestering them by asking “When is Santa Claus coming?” for the 50th time. And when he finally arrives (or leaves the gifts on the door because he did not have time to come inside), everyone is busy playing with their new toys and other gifts until it is time to eat some more and finally go to sleep.
For me, the beauty of our Holidays are the versatility and the uniqueness of them. During our important celebrations, people seem to be happier and friendlier to each other. And even if Finnish people are abroad, they often find a way to celebrate these Holidays, even with a little twist if needed.