Saturday, December 6, 2008

Hyvää Itsenäisysypäivää! - Finnish Independance Day!

On December 6th 1917, 91 years ago today, Finland finally became independant from Russia. It stopped being a duchy and became an independent republic.

So, today's date brings us the Finnish independence day (Itsenäisyspäivää in Finnish) Pronounced (for those that don't know Finnish) as 'Its-a-nicer-soos-pie-var' LOL!!... and it has to be said, that it isn't really a celebration at all, but more a formal or solemn time. In many ways, it is more like the British "Poppy Day", but without sales of a flower to wear. I must say, that I really do miss wearing my 'Poppy with pride'! Maybe someone will send me one next November?

Of course, it is a flag day - so all the flags are flying outside Finnish homes and shops. Ours looks a wee bit limp and frozen to its flag pole though, as it's not a windy day! :D

The shops here, sell a special long tapered white candle, dipped partly with blue wax, to resemble the Finnish national flag - which in itself is symbolic of the Finnish snow and lakes. These candles are lit today, to pay tribute to those who died giving Finland her freedom. It is a time to remember the particularly harsh time after the Winter War with Russia during WW2.

There is always a Presidential event on Independance Day.

Personally, I made the family watch it, the very first year that we lived here...but I must admit that I haven't watched it since, as it's quite long - no, it's VERY long! Thousands of veterans and other worthy citizens, go to an invitation only banquet and dance at the President's Palace. I watched it because of this.. as one never gets to see inside the Buckingham Palace of England, in such a way. I was quite amazed by the event, as each person gets personally greeted by the President, Tarja Halonen... and it's a very, very, long queue that winds its way to her. She must be totally exhausted by the end of it! Her hand must feel like it's all shaked off and her smile glued to her face! :D

When finally they all start to dance, it follows the standard format at a wedding and the President and her partner, start the dancing off for everyone. She has a short period of time in which to dance and then everyone else joins in.....but there are soooo many people in the one room, that no one can really move properly! Quite funny...all shuffling shoulder to shoulder. Then there are the pundits who are assessing the ladies fashions and jewellery and giving a topical run down on who is who etc.

More pictures can be seen here...

Another annual event for Independance Day, is the showing of a film on television called 'Tuntematon sotilas' (The unknown soldier) It's a film from the novel by Väiniö Linna. There are two film versions, one from 1955 and another from 1985. It is a story about the Continuation War between Finland and the Soviet Union, as told from the viewpoint of ordinary Finnish soldiers and it's very gritty and realistic - but obviously in Finnish! Although we get subtitles here...(which helps learn the language SO much!) If you are in Finland.. this year they are showing the 1955 version. 10.05pm on YLE channel TV2.

Today's Finland is naturally very different from the Finland of war time. It has been invested in heavily and it is quite rightly, proud of its achievements. Finland’s educational system is amongst the best in the world and it is also one of the least corrupt countries globally, with the activities of Finnish authorities being both transparent and trustworthy. A competitive country, its level of education is high, its welfare system well organised and the beautiful nature is clean. In many respects, Finland is a very good country in which to live.

Although I am not Finnish born, I would like to pay homage to those that fought in the wars for Finland, especially of course, to those that lost their lives. Lest we forget... their sacrifice has changed Finland into eventually being the place that I, as an immigrant can call home. So, thank you!

Hyvää Itsenäisysypäivää kaikille! Happy Independance Day to all!