Festivities, Holidays and Traditions in Helsinki
Saint John's Eve (Juhannus)
Saint John's is a very important holiday in Finland. It's celebrated the night of June 23 and Finns gather for bonfires on the shores of the country. In Helsinki, the most important celebration is held on the island of Seurasaari. Games, dances and a giant bonfire called Kokko are organized.
There are many superstitions about it, such as that if a naked woman looks at a well, a pond or a fountain at night, she will see her future husband.
In St. Lucia Day, December 13th, people celebrate that the light begins to gain ground to the long dark days of winter and welcome the period where days are extended to up to 20 hours of light. A big event is held in Helsinki next to the Cathedral of the capital. During the event, a woman is chosen to be crown as Saint Lucy. Dressed in white and wearing a crown of candles, she sings a traditional song. Then, in a parade around Helsinki, St Lucia wanders in an impressive carriage.
Lux Helsinki is the festival of light of this city and it's held during the month of January. During four days, the main sights of the Finnish capital are illuminated and images of various Finnish artists are projected around the city center. The festival is free and is celebrated during the darkest days of the year to encourage people to go outside.
The herring fair is one of the oldest events of Finland, held since 1743. The celebration starts in October and, for a week, dozens of fishing boats from all over Finland moor up in Helsinki Market to sell Baltic herring in the Market Square. The herring is cooked in a thousand different ways: fried, marinated, smoked... When the festival ends, the Finns vote for the best herring cooked with the best recipe.
The Holy Week is the main feast in all Orthodox churches of Finland. On Palm Sunday, children go from house to house reciting poems and distributing traditional decorated sticks in exchange for candy.
Walpurgis Night (Witches' Night)
Walpurgis Night is a typical festival of the countries of northern Europe and is held the night of April 30. The party was born of German culture and its original meaning was worshiping the gods of fertility, but over time each country has evolved their own traditions and beliefs. In Finland, it's celebrated specially by students; they organize bonfires and dance around the fire. It’s s very common to drink Sima, a traditional Finnish drink.
Every December 6th, Finns remember the fallen in the Wars of Independence (obtained in 1917). That night, the President of Finland holds a party for about 2,000 guests. The party is broadcasted live on television and much of the population watches it.
Every 3 months, the Restaurant day is organized in Helsinki. The concept is very simple, anyone who wants, can open a mobile restaurant for a day and offer any dishes wanted. All public spaces such as streets, parks and even private courtyards are filled with stalls of people who have decided to share their culinary knowledge.