Saturday, 10 December 2011

Linnan Juhlat - Finnish Independence Day Party

Earlier this week, on December 6, Finland celebrated its Independence Day, or "itsenäisyyspäivä". Like every year, the highlight of the day was the "linnan juhlat" (castle party), when close to 2000 guests were invited to the presidential palace in Helsinki.

The event is broadcast live on TV, and it seems, provides compelling viewing for many Finns.

I figured I needed to understand what this was about, so last Tuesday, at 7pm, I sat down in front of the TV, and watched. To be honest, what I saw was only mildly more exciting that Andy Warhol's movie "Sleep".

The setting was a reception room in the palace, with a red carpet laid from an open door on one side of the room, to an open door on the other side of the room. About half-way down that runway, and slightly to the side, stood Finland's president Tarja Halonen and her husband, err, Mr Halonen. In the background, a small chamber orchestra played what sounded like funeral music, or possibly the score from a horror movie.

Then came the action: 2000 guests walked in turn through the first door, shook hands with Mrs Halonen and hubby, posed briefing in front of the cameras, and walked through the other door. Well, when I say 2000 guests, I didn't hang around to check. After about 40 minutes, I had lost the plot and given up.

It seems the point of the viewing is to to see what people are wearing. Actually, given that men are all supposed to wear penguin suits, it's really about what the women are wearing.

From the bits that I saw, and the reports in the Finnish press the following day, there were a few stunning dresses, and many, many fashion faux-pas. There were walking tents, walking curtains, walking upholstery, there was even a walking Angry Bird (worn by the wife of the characters' creator Peter Vesterbacka). Suddenly, the sinister music made sense: it was a reflection of disasters unfolding on the red carpet!

Mrs Angry Bird
Later, so I am told, the broadcast switches to the party itself, where guests are interviewed about, err, the party and stuff.

The Finns take this event so seriously that, incredibly, the Twitter hashtag #linnanjuhlat ended up trending WORLDWIDE for a short while during the broadcast, making the party the 4th most talked about subject on the microblogging site.

From my point of view, I now feel I've seen all I need to see of the linnan juhlat, and will probably be giving it a miss next year. Unless I get a personal invitation from the president, of course.


  1. That pretty much covers the event. Although, I'm pretty sure that "mr. Halonen" still goes by the name mr. Arajärvi.

    There is, though, something that is very difficult to define that you can get from the experience. Especially if you understand the commentators.

    1. Actually it should be Dr. Arajärvi since he has a doctorate in law. Before that he was titled Valtioneuvos (Minister of State).

  2. I haven't been that interested in these parties for some time now, allthough I'm Fin. I just really couldn't care less about who wore what and OMG those shoes and all that crap.

    Last year the most interesting part of the whole party were the headlines afterwards and the discussion of wheter or not it is "acceptable" that gay men dance with each other in president's party, and even that was entertaining in a way of "Meh, do people really care about that".

  3. Oh yes, I heard about the controversy this year about Jani Toivola (one of the few Finnish celebrities I have actually met) turning up with his boyfriend. I missed his arrival, though I did see a picture of Tarja giving them both the "thumbs up" sign.