Friday, November 23, 2007

Finnish Holidays

Colleague Bill Hooke asked me about what holidays we have in Finland that aren't celebrated in the US.

The list of Finnish National Public Holidays can be found here.

Most are religious holidays (Epiphany, the Easter holiday season, Ascension, All Saints, and Christmas and the day after, Boxing Day).

They also celebrate May Day on May 1, essentially the same as Labor Day in the US (the first Monday on September).

But, there are two that are uniquely Finnish.

Finnish Independence Day on December 6. This year, Finland will have been autonomous for 90 years from Russia (1917). Unlike the US where we celebrate July 4 as Independence Day with parties and fireworks, December 6 in Finland tends to be a somber event, a time to remember the war dead. The Unknown Solider, a Finnish movie about the Continuation War between Finland and the Soviet Union, is shown on TV on this day, and people go to cemetaries with candles.

The other: Midsummer Eve and Midsummer Day: the Friday and Saturday closest to the solstice. This is the time to celebrate the sun being out, after the long winter. It is a time to go away to your summer cottage and is the unofficial start of the summer holiday season. (Remember that Finns take 4-6 weeks of vacation a year. Compare that to usually 2 weeks a year in the US.)

In the US, we have Martin Luther King Day in January, President's Day in mid February, honoring Lincoln and Washington, whose birthdays were both in that month, Memorial Day in late May, Independence Day in July, Labor Day in September, Columbus Day in October, Veteran's Day in early November, and Thanksgiving in late November. Christmas is an official holiday. Easter Sunday is not.


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