Independence Day reception at the Presidential Palace marks changing times

President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö and his spouse Jenni Haukio hosted an Independence Day reception at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki on Wednesday 6 December 2023. The theme of the reception was changing times.

This year’s guests included some 1,700 people from all over Finland, who have distinguished themselves in various ways. Among them were people with long and illustrious careers who have acted as trailblazers, role models and mentors. Those invited also included skilled young innovators, frontrunners working with key success factors for the future and professionals who ensure safety in society and everyday life. Special attention was given to actions supporting children and young people.

At this year’s reception, the first guest to greet the President and his spouse was archiatre Risto Pelkonen (born 1931). Archiatre Pelkonen has had a long and distinguished career as a physician, researcher and teacher.

The guests of honour were war veterans and members of the women’s voluntary civil defence organisation Lotta Svärd. The presidential couple hosted a traditional coffee reception for them in the Yellow Room of the Presidential Palace. This year, the war veterans and members of the Lotta Svärd organisation entered the Presidential Palace through the Esplanadi entrance as Jääkärimarssi (Jäger March) by Jean Sibelius was being played.

As in previous years, a significant number of the guests were invited for the first time.

The music reflected Finnish identity and traditions

At the Independence Day reception, the Guards Band, which has performed at state functions for more than 200 years, played in the Hall of State. Later in the evening, the guests were entertained by the Guards Combo with singer Ilta. The music was chosen with respect for tradition and with a focus on Finnish music. In addition to Finnish classics, arrangements of newer songs were also played during the dance music.

Music at the coffee reception for the honoured guests, veterans of our wars and members of Lotta Svärd, was provided by Ylioppilaskunnan Laulajat (YL Male Voice Choir), a renowned pioneer of Finnish choral music

Sami Pitkämö and his orchestra provided the music in the Salon on the third floor. Their repertoire includes the most popular classics and evergreens of the past decades.

A look back at previous Independence Day receptions

Finnish products and environmental friendliness were again emphasised in the catering for the Independence Day reception in 2023. A special theme this year was the previous Independence Day receptions hosted by the presidential couple. The catering included a popular food item from each previous reception.

Special care was taken to select organic, local and other as environmentally friendly products as possible for the reception The buffet included fish, game, berries, vegetables and Finnish mushrooms. One of the fillings used in the vegetable sandwich cakes was carrot, which has been chosen as the vegetable of the year 2023.

The reception was decorated in a classic style, with an abundance of flowers. In addition to white and blue, the colour palette included pastel shades of lilac and pink. This year’s flowers were roses, carnations, freesias, germini, calla lilies, lisianthus and lilies.

The traditional collaboration with educational institutions continued. In the kitchen, students from Perho Culinary, Tourism and Business College prepared sandwich cakes for the reception. Students from Omnia, the Joint Authority of Education in the Espoo region, helped with the catering.

Reception arrangements considered health security

The arrangements of the reception took health security into account in several ways. Ventilation in the Presidential Palace was improved during the reception. Facilities available to guests were equipped with air filters and hand sanitiser stations. Face masks were also available for those who wished to use them.

Guests were asked to be mindful of others and refrain from attending if they felt ill, had symptoms consistent with COVID-19 infection or had recent exposure to the COVID-19 virus.