Whole of Finland celebrated Independence Day together

Children arriving at the Presidential Palace. Photo: Jon Norppa/Office of the President of the Republic

Children arriving at the Presidential Palace. Photo: Jon Norppa/Office of the President of the Republic

This year, all Finns celebrated Independence Day together remotely. President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö and Mrs Jenni Haukio hosted the Independence Day celebration, which included presentations of Finnish performing art and scenes from celebrations held in previous decades. Viewers also followed how Independence Day was celebrated in different ways throughout Finland. Yle, the Finnish Broadcasting Company, broadcast the celebration live into viewers’ homes.

Regional broadcasts presented the strengths of Finnish society

During the evening, regional broadcasts brought viewers Independence Day greetings from different parts of Finland. At Jorvi Hospital in Espoo, staff from the pulmonary and intensive care unit shared their thoughts on the coronavirus pandemic and how they are copying with it. The pandemic has not stopped Finnish society at any stage; progress is being made even in the  challenging circumstances.

Viewers heard about voluntary work and its importance in a broadcast from Ilomantsi. There, the Red Cross, the Evangelical Free Church and the Lions Club work together to ensure that EU food aid reaches those who need it.

The Finnish crew members of the cargo ship m/s Hjördis, which flies under the Finnish flag, related in a broadcast how they experience Finnishness while spending long periods abroad. The ship was sailing through the Kiel Canal on its way to the Netherlands with a cargo of Finnish steel industry products.

A regional broadcast of the Kainuu Brigade’s exercise at the Vuosanka firing range, on the other hand, conveyed to the viewers the thoughts on national defence and independence of conscripts and a woman performing voluntary military service. Viewers were also introduced to pure domestic food production from a greenhouse farm in Närpiö.

A video depicting Finland’s beautiful nature from Åland to Lapland led viewers to Enontekiö in north-west Finland to meet a reindeer farmer and his sons, who talked about the Sámi people’s relationship with nature and their concern to preserve nature for future generations. The visit to the north-west ended with a performance by reindeer farmer Juha Tornensis of a traditional joiku, which his grandfather, in his time, had dedicated to Helsinki.

Speeches of children and young people looked boldly to the future: happiness, close friends and relatives, and a desire to pursue dreams were uppermost in their thoughts. The children and young people also raised their concern about climate change and its effects.

Presidential couple met war veterans and a member of the Lotta Svärd

During Independence Day week, President Niinistö and Mrs Haukio met by remote connection Mr Yrjö Rimpinen from Kokemäki, a veteran of the Continuation and Lapland Wars, and Mrs Aila Salo from Rauma, who served as a junior Lotta in the Winter and Continuation Wars.

At the meeting, Mr Rimpinen said that he sometimes felt homesick while on the front, but the thought of leaving his position or not fulfilling his duty had never entered his mind. Mrs Salo emphasised the role of women in maintaining the country’s independence.

Before Independence Day, President Niinistö also met at the Presidential Palace General Jaakko Valtanen, who viewers have been accustomed in recent years to seeing as the first guest to arrive at the Hall of State. At the beginning of the meeting, the President read an excerpt from his diary about an earlier Independence Day, in which he described his feelings as the General stepped forward to shake his hand while the Jaeger March played: “As I shake his hand, my hand is steady, my gaze incisive, but deep inside there’s a tremor and emotion starts to overcome me.”

General Valtanen told President Niinistö that he trusts in the future and the young people of Finland. In the society of today, the desire to defend one’s own country and independence still strongly exists, and it stems from the fact that the status and rights of individual citizens have been safeguarded like they are in Finland. The general also agreed with President Niinistö that a sense of inclusion and belonging is an important part of this desire.

Extensive display of culture

An extensive display of various cultural performances was also seen on Independence Day. The celebration began in the traditional way with the Jaeger March, performed by the Guards Band. In the Hall of State, singers Aarne Pelkonen and Diandra touchingly interpreted various songs, including Kaj Chydenius’s Sinua, sinua rakastan. They were accompaned by musicians Jukka Perko, Marzi Nyman, Jani Pensola, Seppo Guangzhou and Eriikka Maalismaa.

The rap group Biolapset raised the atmosphere in the Atrium and in the Hall of Mirrors with their brisk number Ota pallosta kii. Actors Seela Sella and Esko Salminen also performed in the Atrium. The performance, directed by Mika Myllyaho, was based on a collage of quotations compiled and edited by Mrs Haukio.

Dancers of the National Ballet danced the first waltz of the evening to the rhythm of Valse Lente. In addition, kantele artist Ida Elina and dancer Atte Kilpinen performed their own interpretation of the Finlandia hymn.

A fine evening ended with the YL Male Voice Choir’s rendition of the song Isänmaalle.

Due to the coronavirus situation, most of the evening’s performances were recorded in advance. In addition, the Biolapset performance, for example, consisted of several parts recorded at different times.

The celebration was organised in partnership with Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle, which broadcast the Independence Day events live.