Finnish Independence Day 2020

Today is Itsenäisyyspäivä, or Finnish Independence Day 2020. For breakfast I’m baking fresh joulutorttu (they’re shaped like poinsettias, not swastikas) to go with morning coffee. We’ll watch the military parade and the church service. Tonight I’m making janssoninkiusaus for dinner, which is admittedly more Swedish than Finnish but it’s a Nordic fish-and-potato dish so I say it counts.

There won’t be a President’s Reception this year because of the pandemic. It’s the Oscars of Finland. Celebrities and dignitaries line up to meet the President and first lady. All of Finland tunes in to see who’s wearing what. Then there are music acts so you can dance the night away. This year there will still be music, but socially distanced. Remote segments from around the country are planned, celebrating life in Finland.

Finnish Independence Day 2020

Honestly, this is my favorite Finnish holiday. There’s none of the chest-thumping “FREEDOM EFF YEAH” bravado of United States independence day. It’s more about celebrating Finnish culture, what makes this country and its people special. Even the military parade feels more like honoring the service of soldiers than macho posturing. That is kind of doubles as the equivalent of US Memorial Day, with people laying flowers at the gravesites of veterans and the annual showing of the war film Tuntematon sotilas

The people honored at the Presidential Reception typically include teachers and scientists, writers, artists, and activists. There are actors and musicians, of course, as well as military, law enforcement officers, and politicians. They hold everyone up at the same level, at least from my perspective as a foreigner like me. A painter’s contribution to society feels as important as a generals. Poets enjoy the same esteem as a member of parliament.

Finland’s not perfect, but the sure do get a lot of things right. They also seem to work hard at making things better. There’s a reason why this is ranked as the Happiest Country in the World.

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