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Itsenäisyyspäivä: How to Celebrate Finnish Independence Day

In 1917, Finland finally gained its independence from Russia after a months-long battle. Each year, Finns celebrate freedom and solemnly commemorate those who gave their lives during this time.

In this article, you’ll learn about this long battle for freedom and about how people celebrate Finnish independence.

Ready? Let’s get started!

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1. What is Independence Day in Finland?

Independence Day commemorates the day Finland won its independence from Russia. The holiday dates to 1917 when Finland was declared a sovereign nation apart from Russia, where it had been considered a grand duchy.

The battle for Finnish independence began with the February Revolution of 1917 and was further pressed with the October Revolution of 1917. When Grand Duke Nicholas II abdicated the throne in Russia, Finns believed that they were rightfully their own nation: the act severed their legal ties with Russia.

On November 15, 1917, the Finnish Parliament declared itself to be in power over Finland, but the Bolsheviks declared that Finland was still a Russian duchy. By December 18 of that same year, the Russian government finally recognized Finland’s independence. On December 22, the Russian ruling body officially approved it.

2. When is Finnish Independence Day?

the Finnish Flag

Each year, Finland celebrates its Independence Day on December 6. This is the date in 1917 that Finland was actually nominated to become independent from Russia.

3. How Does Finland Celebrate Independence Day?

The Castle Ball

1- Public Finnish Independence Day Celebrations & Events

For Finland, Independence Day is a solemn occasion. The holiday begins when Finns raise their national flag in the morning.

Many attend a general Christian church service at the Helsinki Cathedral. To mourn and honor the fallen, people visit the cemeteries, and university students perform torch processions through these cemeteries. The processions end in Helsinki’s Senate Square, where the celebrations begin. The ceremony includes speeches and performances of patriotic songs by academic male choirs.

The Defence Forces organize an annual Independence Day parade in various cities. It’s a large military parade where various units will march with their vehicles and tanks. Usually, the parade also includes a fly-over by the Finnish Air Force.

A special Independence Day party is organized for the disadvantaged in Helsinki, where they will receive a free lunch and clothing. Further, the movie The Unknown Soldier, which is a film by Edvin Laine about the war between Finland and the Soviet Union, is shown annually on TV.

2- Celebrations at Home & The Finnish Independence Day Ball

In homes, families take part in Finnish Independence Day traditions peacefully but solemnly. Two blue and white candles are lit in the windows to celebrate independence. Families also eat festive food and watch Independence Day celebrations on TV.

The highlight of the evening is the live televised Independence Day reception at the Presidential Palace. The guests invited to the Palace are among the most famous and distinguished people in Finland, ambassadors of different countries, and a selected group of ordinary citizens. The women invited to the Presidential Palace will invest in their evening gowns, and their rating is popular Independence Day entertainment for many people.

A total of about 1,800 guests will be invited to the Presidential Palace Independence Day celebrations. Approximately ten treats are reserved for each guest from the Palace delicacies. Nowadays, a microchip containing the personal information of the invitee is attached to the invitation cards for the Independence Day celebrations.

4. The First Celebrations

Do you know when the President of Finland organized the first Independence Day celebrations?

The first Independence Day Finland celebrated was held in 1919, when President Ståhlberg’s daughter Aino held a modest reception for 150 guests.

5. Essential Vocabulary for Finnish Independence Day

Blue and White Candles

Here’s some essential Finnish vocabulary to memorize before Independence Day!

  • Itsenäisyyspäivä — “Independence Day”
  • Käydä sankarihaudalla — “Visit war graves”
  • Soihtukulkue — “Torchlight procession”
  • Linnanjuhlat — “The Castle Ball”
  • laulaa Maamme-laulu — “Sing the National Anthem”
  • Jumalanpalvelus — “Service of worship
  • Lipunnosto — “Raising of the flag”
  • Itsenäisyyspäivän vastaanotto — “Presidential Independence Day reception”
  • Sytyttää kaksi sinivalkoista kynttilää ikkunalaudalle — “Light two blue and white candles on the windowsill”
  • Mannerheim-ristin Ritari — “Knight of the Mannerheim Cross”
  • Siniristilippu — “Flag of Finland”

To hear each of these vocabulary words pronounced and to read them alongside relevant images, visit our Finnish Independence Day vocabulary list!

Final Thoughts

What are your thoughts on Finnish Independence Day celebrations? How do you celebrate Independence Day in your country? Let us know in the comments!

If you’re interested in learning even more about Finnish culture and history, you may enjoy the following pages on

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Happy Finnish Independence Day! 🙂

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