Flags, candles and ball gowns – Finnish Independence Day

Though some places do patriotism non-stop, Independence Day only comes once a year.

And so today Finns are talking a lot about vapaus or freedom and about wars past. Here the word in graffiti on a redundant former industrial site. 

Around the country flags have been hoisted in memory or perhaps rather, in celebration, of Finnish sovereignty. 6th December 1917, in the afterfath of revolution in Russia, the Finnish Parliament declared its independence. Below a selection of mechanisms, cleats, for keeping the flags in place.

Today the poles were flying blue-and-white flags in the dark December day. The shops decorated with blue-and-white displays and mini-flags.

And while most people were just enjoying a quiet Sunday the hairdressing profession (below) was slaving away on hairdos for the President’s ball (and other posh parties) in the old merchant palace, another building with the trace of C.L.Engel’s handiwork. The media hysteria one senses around the event makes the mystery of all those ball gowns on sale a tiny bit little less of a mystery.

The last time I recall being in Finland for Independence day I was very young. I thought my mother was peculiar for watching the ball on TV. My older siblings went with their student friends on some parade and looked worse for wear the next morning. Later I found out about protests against the celebrations and mused on what people might have against the ball. All I ever did was help my parents put two candles in each window, for some symbolic reason that nobody could ever explain to me. Not that I asked for an explanation. It just seemed like a suitable and thoughtful way to mark a special day.

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