Finlandia celebrates halfway point of winter with community
After a two-year hiatus, Finlandia University was again able to host the patrons of Heikinpäivä at the Finnish American Heritage Center and North Wind Books to celebrate all the quirks and qualities of the Finnish people and their descendants in the region. This festival, which has been taking place mid-winter for more than 20 years, is hosted by the City of Hancock’s Finnish Theme Committee.
The primary festival site was Finlandia’s Finnish American Heritage Center, where more than two weeks of classes, films and traditions culminated on Saturday, January 28 with a full day of activity that kicked off with the annual Heikinpäivä parade, featuring Finnish-American and Finnish folklore characters.
Following the parade, community members gathered on Quincy Green to celebrate the halfway point of winter with traditional Finnish music, markets, dancing, food and games. Headlining the day’s events were wife-carrying competitions, kicksleds, a costumed circle dance, and a market hosted at the Heritage Center.
“The Heikinpäivä festival is many people’s favorite winter event, and for good reason,” said Finnish American Heritage Center Director Dave Maki, who’s also a Finnish Theme Committee member. “It’s a privilege to operate a Finnish cultural center in a community that’s so devoted to its Finnish roots. I think this year’s festival attendance proved how many people embrace their Finnishness, and for them to do so on a campus that hasn’t forgotten its roots makes it even more special.”
For many, including Finlandia President Tim Pinnow, it was a first and special occasion parading alongside dozens of cultural anecdotes, both true and fabled. Mary (Aho) Brunet was named this year’s Hankookin Heikki, an honor bestowed upon an individual who has greatly supported the local Finnish-American community. Finlandia Lions Athletics joined in the fun by pushing Brunet throughout the parade aboard Big Louie — “arguably the world’s largest kicksled.”
Heikki Lunta, a fictional character said to live in the back woods of the Finnish farming community of Tapiola, Michigan, also made his annual appearance at the festival. In a recent interview on Michigan Public Radio, Finlandia’s Associate Professor of Finnish & Nordic Studies Dr. Hilary-Joy Virtanen explained the lore of Heikki Lunta through the lens of nearly two decades of fieldwork. Heikki Lunta, Virtanen shared, was reported to have the ability to perform a dance, which would cause the snow to fall from the skies.
So much dancing at the festival may have indeed led to the winter storm which blew through the area on Sunday evening, causing a snow day for Finlandia’s campus the following morning.
To learn more about Heikinpäivä, visit finlandia.edu/heikinpaiva.Tags: City of Hancock, City of Hancock’s Finnish Theme Committee, David Maki, Dr. Hilary-Joy Virtanen, Finnish American Heritage Center, Finnish American Historical Archive, Finnish Heritage, Heikinpäivä, North Wind Books, Quincy Green, Tori Market