President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö and Mrs Jenni Haukio received traditional Christmas greetings on Thursday, 17 December 2020.
In keeping with the spirit of the times, the receiving of Christmas greetings was also arranged in a new way this year. Mulled wine and gingerbreads were served on both sides of the screen as the presidential couple and the bearers of greetings met each other by remote connection. The greetings had been delivered to Mäntyniemi earlier the same morning.
The first connection was made with students from the Forestry Students’ Christmas Tree Company, who have been selling Christmas trees in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area since 1909. A magnificent arboreal greeting supplied by them had already been erected to adorn the entrance hall at Mäntyniemi. This year, the tree came from Grangård farm in Nurmijärvi, with the traditional oat sheaf, on the other hand, coming from Gård-Marttila farm in Kauvatsa, Kokemäki. The first Christmas tree was presented to President Urho Kekkonen way back in 1963.
After the forestry students, representatives of the Vehmaa branch of the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (MTK) presented a Christmas ham to the presidential couple for the 24th time. In his greeting, Juha-Matti Suominen, Chairman of MTK-Vehmaa, explained how the popularity of domestic food has increased further as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The tradition of giving a Christmas pike is even longer than presenting a Christmas tree or ham: the first Christmas pike was brought to the King by the people of Korpo in the 18th century. After a 200-year break, the tradition was restored during the term of President Koivisto. In her accompanying words, Ann-Christin Nyström wished the presidential couple a Merry Christmas on behalf of all of the people of Korpo.
Representatives of animal welfare and conservation organisations brought to Mäntyniemi a basket of organic vegetables, this year containing flax seed bran, lingonberry and cranberry powder, and spruce sprout powder. In addition, the basket revealed the now traditional seed cake for the birds at Mäntyniemi. In his greeting, Mika Asikainen, Chairman of the Board of Birdlife Finland, said how organisations have followed with pleasure how the presidential couple have highlighted the importance of nature: “You set an excellent example for Finns by highlighting outdoor pastimes and spending time in the local nature.”
After the presentation of the vegetable basket, the Helsinki branch of the Finnish Florists’ Association told the presidential couple about their beautiful floral greeting, which included hyacinths and an array of natural materials. Chair of the branch Minna Uusi-Simola and Member of the Board Anne Kataikko told the presidential couple that the white Christmas rose is still one of the most popular flowers at Christmas. The Finnish Florists’ Association is a nationwide industry organisation for florists and those who have completed training or a degree in floristry.
The Finnish Karelian League had brought to Mäntyniemi Karelian pasties, freshly baked in the morning. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the League, which focuses on the display, preservation and renewal of Karelian culture. Chair of the Karelian League Outi Örn said how the members of the League have this year highlighted their roots, for example through various photographs and texts, now that events have had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus.
The warm-hearted event ended with a rendition of the song Silent Night by Finland’s Lucia Maiden, Ingrid Enckell, and her choir. Traditionally, the Lucia Maiden has visited hospitals and homes for the elderly during December and January, bringing light into the darkness of winter. This year, these visits will also be done virtually.
President Niinistö and Mrs Haukio warmly thanked the bearers of greetings for their consideration and wished them a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.