It wasn't in honour of my visit though, even if that would have been a rather nice gesture given that it was my last for quite a while...
In Finland, the flags are flown on many occasions throughout the year. In fact, this happens so often that even the Finns don't always know why the flags are flying. On this occasion, I had to ask about a half a dozen Finns before I found one who actually knew why the flags were out.Like in many countries, the national flag in Finland is an important symbol of indepedence and pride. Unlike most national flags though, the Finnish flag comes in a number of flavours apparently.
The basic flag is the blue cross over a white background, possibly symbolising the lakes and the snow of Finland. That is your every-day sort-of-flag, for the average "Jukka Bloggs", so to speak.
The State has its own version, that includes a coat of arms in the middle of the cross showing a golden lion on a red background. Apparently, that coat of arms (which dates from the 16th century) was the subject of much debate when Finland gained independence in 1917. Some felt that a bear would be a more accurate reflection of the Finnish wildlife (well, err, yes), but their view was defeated by those who believed the bear was too closely associated that that bothersome neighbour, Russia.
The president also has his/her very own flag, which in addition to the coat of arms, features the symbol of the Order of the Cross of Liberty (vapaudenristin ritarinkunkta), of which he/she is the Grand Master (or Grand Mistress?).
special Finnish days (of which I counted 18 excluding election days, referendum days and presidential inauguration days), each and everyone flies their own flag. Virtually every building, public or private, has its own flagpole, so the effect is quite impressive.
I do realise that Finland is not unique in regularly flying the flag, however it is quite a contrast to England where I live and where the flags are flown only when the Queen has a Jubilee (every decade or so) and when the English football team plays in a big tournament such as the World Cup. And even then, not every building has a flagpole so the effect is far less impressive than in Finland (in fairness, England does have many beer-bellied topless men with tattooed Union Jacks or St George's Crosses, but that's not quite the same).
And the reason for the impressive display of flags on my last visit? War Veterans' Day apparently.