Finland celebrates Independence Day

The 2018 Independence Day celebrations. Photo credit: Juhani Kandell - Tasavallan presidentin kanslia

 ROME – The Finnish national holiday celebrating independence occurs on Dec 6 and constitutes a non-customary event for the Finns, in the sense that it is a day full of events and celebrations throughout the country, with the key event represented by the speech of the President of the Republic which follows a reception whose participation is much sought after and followed.

 The theme of this year's Independence Day reception is knowledge and discussion. "Finland's strength has always been the ability to work together, making room for different opinions and using knowledge in different ways," said Sauli Niinistö, President of the Republic of Finland.

 Technological development has changed the relationship with knowledge: it is easily accessible and the threshold for engaging in debates has been lowered. The tone of the discussion in society, on the other hand, has intensified.

 This year, President Niinistö and his wife Jenni Haukio intend to pay particular attention to the people and institutions that promote the dissemination of reliable information and discussions.  

 "Everyone can contribute to creating a culture for thoughtful discussions, promoting trust in scientific knowledge and skills and, above all, respecting the truth. This is how trust is created," said president Niinistö.

 This year the presidential couple invited around 1,700 Finns who have distinguished themselves in various areas of life to the presidential palace. Finnish war veterans and members of the female auxiliary corps of Lotta Svärd are invited to participate as guests of honour.

 The Independence Day reception has a long tradition. During the period of autonomy, when Finland was a Russian grand duchy, the dances were organized in relation to the Diet, a type of parliamentary assembly granted by the Tsar, at the Imperial Palace, which today is the Presidential Palace. So, the way was opened for receptions for Independence Day, first in the afternoon and then in the evening.

 The history of the Independence Day reception dates back to 1919, when the first afternoon reception took place at the Presidential Palace. In 1919-1921, the guest list included government, diplomats and public officials, around 150 people in all. Coffee was served and the program included music. After the reception, the celebrations continued at the headquarters of the National Theatre.

 On Dec 6 1922 the president K.J. Ståhlberg and Mrs Ester Ståhlberg hosted the first evening reception at the presidential palace. The reception began at 9 pm and over a thousand guests were invited; on the program, singing, music and dancing.

 The Independence Day reception at the Presidential Palace took its current name from 1964, and the number of guests ranges from about 1,600 to 2,000.

 This edition of 2019 also aims to highlight the national character and environmental compatibility. In fact, the menu features home-grown organic vegetables, vegetables and cereals. Also on the list are fish and game prepared in the traditional way. Sweet products use a variety of Kultaranta blueberries and other Finnish berries.

 Respect for the environment is also taken into consideration in the drinks served. The traditional punch this year is entirely made with organic products. The wines are vegan organic wines and the beer is produced from leftover bread. In addition, there is the juice of Kultaranta apples. Coffee is produced responsibly and organic tea is climate compensated.

 As in the last year, respect for the environment is evident in the transport of products and recyclable packaging materials. For example, glass bottles are further transformed into recycled objects. Attention will also continue to be paid to the loss of food at the banquet. In addition, the traditional collaboration between educational institutions will continue for the reception: 32 students from the Perho Business School collaborate in the kitchen and catering. Some of the products will be prepared in Raisio and Tampere school canteens.

 A smaller-scale reception is also set up in all Finnish diplomatic representations abroad and this year Finland's new ambassador to Italy, Mrs Pia Rantala-Engberg, receives guests in the Roman residence.