Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Independence Day in Finland

December 6 is Independence Day in Finland and marks the day in 1917 that Finland declared its independence from Russian rule.

Brooke and I enjoyed the day alone, as Bryan and Analeise were in Germany. One part of the afternoon was spent at the city's largest cemetery. As is common on other special holidays, people light candles and place them at the graves of their loved ones. Besides that, it is part of the Independence Day tradition for university students to form a procession from the University of Tampere's main building to the veterans' area of the cemetery to pay respect to those fallen in war. Brooke and I saw the procession from a distance but did not come upon the university students in the cemetery when we visited. The candles looked lovely in the snow.

The university students procession leads from the cemetery to Tampere's main square. The main street, Hämeenkatu, was closed to vehicles close to the square, and it was fun to walk there and to see the flaming columns that had been set up in the middle of the bridge.

Hundreds of Finnish flags were up around town, waving in the snowy wind. Many stores had small displays of blue and white candles and a Finnish flag.

Brooke and I did not make it all the way to the main square, which was squished tight with thousands of people ready to participate in the city's celebration. There was a speech made by a city official, the reading of a Finnish poem and the playing of some music by Finland's most famous composer, Sibelius. After that, I was happy to hear Brooke sing part of Finland's national anthem when it was played, and then there were fireworks.

Tampere's opera hall is on the left.

We headed home to watch the annual Indpendence Day ball on TV. Finland's president, Tarja Halonen, and her husband shook hands with hundreds and hundreds of guests while we ate the little cakes I'd bought for the day.

Greeting the ball's guests took two hours - how do they have the stamina? My understanding is that the reception of guests is the most popular part of the broadcast, because people like to see what guests wear to the ball. We watched on and off, as we were busy drinking hot cocoa and playing dice (thank you, Mindy for reminding me of the rules!), which Brooke was very happy to win before going to bed.

Bonus photos

We saw these kids getting pulled by their older sister on our way to the main square. They were singing and obviously quite happy with their transportation arrangement.

Brooke took this shot in the cemetery.

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