Keeping Track of Finnish Holidays

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At some point I lost track of American holidays. Unless something pops up in the news, I forget about them. Keeping track of holidays becomes sort of odd when no one around you celebrates them. No sales or parades of barbecues. The artificiality of it, and how commercial and forced they seem, starts to creep in. They all seem like excuses to buy stuff and/or drink.

The reason I developed an awareness of Finnish holidays was practical: everything is closed. At least, it was. When we first arrived here, all of the stores were closed on Mother’s Day so people could spend time with their families. Stores were only open limited hours on Sunday anyway, if they were open at all. That’s changed; the stores are now open full hours on weekends. We even just got our first 24-hour McDonald’s. This sort of “progress” makes me a little sad.

Many Finnish holidays revolve around the seasons. That’s infinitely practical. Midsummer is the longest day of the year, the sun never completely sets, and Finns wisely want to soak up as much sun as possible while it lasts. The Equinox in September means the darkness is coming, so get prepared. That’s when people start putting up lights, similar to Christmas lights. Christmas is around Midwinter, the shortest day of the year. We party because we’ve made it through the darkest part, although January is still typically the coldest month. There’s a survival aspect to it. Enjoy it while it lasts, be glad these things are temporary.

Another clue that something is going on is if you see the Finnish flag. Unlike the United States, people don’t fly the flag 24/7/365. If there are flags out it’s either a holiday, the birthday of a Finnish cultural hero like Sibelius, Runeberg, or Snellman, or something has happened. It also flies on major European Union and United Nations holidays as well. When I see the flag it prompts me to look up why, so it has educational value. I learn things.

Keeping Track of Finnish Holidays

Once Finnish holidays worked their way into my life organically, I started tracking them. It’s good to be aware when stores will be closed, but also to know when fun stuff is going to happen. A lot of foods are seasonal and holiday-adjacent. You can’t get them all year long, and that makes them special. Not in a forced, overly-marketed way like pumpkin-spiced everything in the United States. More like certain cookies you only bake at Christmas, or strawberries that are better when they’re local and in season. Holidays here are special because they have some meaning to them. They’re temporary, ephemeral joys.

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