Story originally published by the Finnish American Heritage Center.
Compelled not to break with tradition, Finlandia University will celebrate Finland’s Independence on December 6 at 5:30 p.m., as it has done in some iteration for the last 103 years. This year’s commemoration, under-stated and COVID-19 restriction compliant, will for the first time incorporate an Independence Day not seen before in the Upper Peninsula – a torch light procession from Hancock’s City Hall to the Finnish American Heritage Center, where a brief program will be conducted outside. Anyone attending is asked to wear a mask and maintain appropriate social distancing.
In university cities throughout Finland, a traditional torch cavalcade by students has been held annually since 1951. Carrying torches and flags, the university students silently march their routes, with destinations of war veterans’ graves where they place wreaths. In Helsinki, the retinue’s destination is the imposing steps outside the Helsinki Cathedral, where speeches are delivered.
A hallmark of the events in past decades is the presences of two candles in the windows of the Finnish American Heritage Center – a custom dating from the 1920s. Earlier, candles were placed in Finnish windows on poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg‘s birthday as a silent protest against Russian oppression. A popular legend has it that two candles were used as a sign to inform young Finnish men on their way to Sweden and Germany to become jaegers that the house was ready to offer shelter and keep them hidden from the Russians.
In response to pandemic health measures, Finlandia University must forego the usual program of music, word and Finnish treats, but the two candles will enlighten the sills of each window of the Finnish American Heritage Center – a light against the darkness of tyranny, and perhaps this year, the tyranny of disease, as well, receiving the torch procession at 5:30 p.m.
The public is invited to participate if compliant with current health and safety requirements. For the full history of the Finnish Independence, please visit the Heritage Center’s website. Questions may be directed to the Finnish American Heritage Center.Tags: Finnish American Heritage Center, Finnish Independence Day