President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö and Mrs Jenni Haukio received the traditional Christmas greetings at Mäntyniemi on Thursday 15 December 2016.
The first to bring greetings was Finland's Lucia maiden, Ingrid Holm, and her choir. In addition to the song, Santa Lucia, melodies such as the hymn, Fairest Lord Jesus, were performed. The choir sang in both Finnish and Swedish. Now in her final year at upper secondary school, Ingrid Holm, the Lucia maiden for 2016, is an 18-year-old from the island of Kemiö. She is already booked for more than 80 visits to venues such as retirement homes, schools and day-care centres. The Lucia collection will continue until the end of January. Its proceeds will be used to help and support vulnerable families with children.
The Helsinki branch of the Finnish Florists' Association brought greetings in the form of tulips. “A sea of tulips!” exclaimed the President upon seeing the 120 tulips set in a wooden box.
Representatives of animal welfare and conservation organisations brought a basket of organic vegetables to Mäntyniemi. Green pea tempeh, broad bean products, domestic organic vegetables, as well as spelt liquorice and raw chocolate were among the contents of the basket. Both the bringers of the greetings and President Niinistö pointed out that vegetarian food is an emerging trend. Liisa Rohweder, Secretary General of the WWF, explained that food accounts for 20 percent of the average carbon footprint of each Finn.
Forestry students brought the presidential couple a Christmas tree and oat sheaf. The tree, which was harvested from the Grangård farm in Nurmijärvi, is one of this year's spruces. The President referred to the long tradition of forestry students bringing Christmas greetings – a Christmas tree was brought to President Urho Kekkonen during his days as the host of Tamminiemi.
Set next to the Christmas tree, the oat sheaf came from the Gård-Marttila farm in Kauvatsa. The forestry students joked that they had considered making the sheaf out of the new Finnish hit product, nyhtökaura (‘pulled oats’), but had settled for standard oats in the end. A personal greeting, in the form of a seasonal poem from the lady of the farm, accompanied the sheaf.
The Vehmaa branch of the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (MTK) brought a Christmas ham to Mäntyniemi. This marked a special year for the tradition, since it is the 20th time that Vehmaa has given a ham to the President. In their address, representatives of the Union highlighted the importance to Finns of domestic food production and local food.
Tore Johansson, whose daughter was among the people of Korpo visiting Mäntyniemi, caught a Christmas pike to be presented by the association Korpo Kulturgi rf. There is also a long tradition of giving a Christmas pike, since the people of Korpo were presenting them to the Swedish King in the 1700s. After a break, the tradition was resumed during the term of President Koivisto. The pike was of particular interest to Lennu, the presidential couple’s dog, but was rescued from the prying pooch’s muzzle in good time.
The Finnish Karelian League brought gifts such as freshly baked barley, rice and potato Karelian pasties, ‘sulhas’ pasties (half moon-shaped, crust pies made of rye) and vatrushka. Aira Viitaniemi, who is an honorary member of the Association and the chairwoman of its Women’s Committee, said that she had baked the Karelian pasties that very morning. In addition, Marjo Matikainen-Kallström, who chairs the Board of the Finnish Karelian League, gave a book on Karelian food in thanks for Mrs Jenni Haukio’s spell as patroness of the Women's Committee’s 40th anniversary year in 2016.
The Cantores Minores choir performed during the presentation of Christmas greetings, singing the songs Angels We Have Heard on High, Silent Night and Julvisa. Both President Niinistö and Mrs Haukio are the permanent patrons of the choir.