My favorite holiday used to be Thanksgiving. I know a lot of people hate it for any number of reasons. Because I love to cook, and I love all of the traditional foods associated with it, I always had a good time. Annoying family members aren’t something I have to deal with since reaching adulthood. It’s always been what some people refer to as “friends-giving”. There was never any American football involved, just the parade, the dog show, and an annual viewing of the original Miracle on 34th Street.
Since moving to Finland my favorite holiday has become itsenäisyyspäivä, Finnish Independence Day, on December 6th. Totally low-key. Everything is closed. It’s like American Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Academy Awards red carpet, and the Vanity Fair Oscar party rolled into one. Allow my to explain.
You stay home, and you watch TV. In the morning, the President and the First Lady go to war memorials to pay respect to fallen soldiers. At noon there’s a televised multi-denominational church service that the first family and other dignitaries attended. A short military parade, held in a different city every year, comes next. It’s less of a Soviet-type to-do and more like a Veteran’s Day parade in the U.S., but with more tanks and helicopters.
In the evening is Linnanjuhlat, the Castle Ball, which is a big party in the main government building. Invited guests include scientists, artists, athletes, first responders, and other Finns who have distinguished themselves. It’s about three hours of a reception line, where the guests shake hands with the President and First Lady. Yes, people watch this. We see what people are wearing. We learn who’s been honored with an invite, and I gain new insight into Finnish culture. Finns daydream about doing something worthy of an invitation to the Castle Ball.
We drink glöggi (mulled wine) and baking traditional prune tarts during all of this. Once all of the guests have gone through the line, there are performances by notable Finnish musicians. We get everything from classical to jazz to metal, because, seriously, Finland.
What’s Your Favorite Holiday?
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