The Bear Rolls Over!

Karhu kylkeänsä kääntää!

In 1999, the Finnish Theme Committee of the City of Hancock created a new Finnish-American celebration – Heikinpäivä. The celebration’s themes are taken from Finnish folk saying associated with the name day for Heikki (Henrik’s day, 19 January). By far, the Finns make up the largest ethnic group of Michigan’s Copper Country. In Hancock approximately 40 percent of the population claimed Finnish ancestry in the most recent federal census.

Finnish speaking residents of the Copper Country still recall the proverbs their parents and grandparents brought with them from Finland. In particular, the weather proverbs connected with St. Henrik’s Day have been retained in the Hancock area, where huge amounts of winter snow are the norm. “Karhu kylkeänsä kääntää” (The bear rolls onto his other side), “Heikki heinät jakaa” (Heikki divides the hay) and ultimately, “Talven selkä poikki” (winter’s back is broken). The bear – an ancient Finnish and Saame symbol — figures well in the celebration, as do Saame and winter sports themes.

Heikinpäivä organizers keep a watchful eye on the celebration’s uniquely ethnic flavor. Finnish crafts, music, food, films, and games provide something for everyone. Although a Hancock City event, the Heikinpäivä spirit has spilled into neighboring communities.

There’s something for everyone. Follow the links to next annual Heikinpäivä and plan to be there!