Today is Finland`s Independence Day. You might have not heard about it, but today`s Finland as you know it nowadays has been an independent country only for 97 years.
Two things are very typical for the second half of this day:
1, People light candles and put them to the window as a sign of respect towards the war veterans of Winter War.
2, There is a live broadcast of the Presidental Reception where war veterans and famous Finns are invited, and almost the whole nation is watching this broadcast for more than 4 hours (!!). For many hours the program is only showing as the guests arrive and the President of Finland and his wife are shaking hands with the guests. Then the party starts, they serve the dishes, speeches are held and at the end they show the after party.
The next day everyone is talking about the guest list, and how certain guests were dressed up, and the tabloids elect the best and worst dresses guests of the night.
I like this day, because it is also a day to remember the Finnish war veterans of World War II. The Winter War and the respect towards those who made Finnish Independence possible is the foundation of modern Finnish identity. It is good to see that no political party tries to misuse this occasion, and the society is united in the respect towards those people who risked their lives for the country.
I always remember on this day that this was one of the first things I started to like in Finns that they know how to connect past and present, and keep a healthy, but not over-nationalized national identity.
In connection with this celebration also the word sisu gets mentioned quite often. It is the Finnish word for bravery, and holding on also under not so favorable conditions.
I don`t like war at all, but somehow in this case I can understand why these veterans are respected so much who are now the old people you see on the metro, or in the shops (* the average age of war veterans is over 90 years, there are still 28-29.000 war veterans alive). Who are someone`s grandfather and/or great grandfather, being possibly slow and a bit senile sometimes. But still a living example for it that if you fight from all of your heart for something what is very important to you even when the odds are against you, you might win at the end.
If you are interested in watching the live broadcast and read more about the history of the presidental reception on this day you find the live broadcast under:
And here you can read a great article summarizing this evening`s spirit: