Thursday, December 13, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Friday, December 7, 2007
Finland's Independence Day (Finnish itsenäisyyspäivä, Swedish självständighetsdag) is a national public holiday held on December 6 to celebrate Finland's declaration of independence from the Russian empire.The movement for Finland's Independence started after the revolutions in Russia (1917), caused by the disturbances from the defeats of the First World War. This gave an opportunity for Finland to withdraw from Russia. After several disagreements between the non-socialists and the social-democrats about the matter of who should have the power in Finland, the parliament, led by Per Evind Svinhufvud, finally declared Finland as an independent state, on the 6th of December 1917.
During the early decades of independence, this day was a very solemn occasion marked by patriotic speeches and special Church services. From the 1970s onwards, however, Independence day celebrations have taken on livelier forms, with shops decorating their windows in the blue and white of the Finnish flag, and bakeries producing cakes with blue and white icing. Today, rock stars and entertainers have been accepted as worthy interpreters of Finnish patriotism.
It is traditional for Finnish families to light two candles in the windows of their home in the evening, Historically these two candles were used as a sign to inform Finnish Jäger troops that the house was ready to offer shelter and keep them hidden from the Russians.
The official festivities usually commence with the raising of the flag on Tähtitorninmäki, in Helsinki. There is a religious service at the Helsinki Cathedral, followed, in the evening, by a gala reception for approximately 2000 invited guests at the Presidential Palace. This event, known as Linnan juhlat ("the party at the castle") is broadcast on national television and has been a perennial favorite of the viewing public. The reception invariably attracts the attentions of demonstrators, supportive of various causes, and various demonstrations and shadow parties are held to coincide with the official event. Philanthropist Veikko Hursti organized the most popular of these events, providing free food for the poor and underpriviledged. After his death his son is keeping up the tradition.
The most popular television segment of the Independence day reception is the entrance of the guests, who number roughly around 1800. These include persons who receive invitations every year, including the knights of the Mannerheim Cross (traditionally the first ones to enter), members of the Parliament of Finland, archbishops, judges and various diplomats dignitaries. The second group includes people of the President's own choosing, typically entertainers, activists, sportspersons, and in general, people who have been in the spotlight over the past year. The last people to enter are always the previous presidents.