100 years ago, Finland declared its independence from Russia. Today the Centenarian celebrates its birthday and we will all hope that this one will not decide to step out the window and disappear. In my opinion, it’s a good moment to reflect on what it really means to be Finnish. I am a Finn abroad, but the old homeland – if I can call it that – is present in my everyday life. I speak the language to my daughter, most of my work happens in Finnish, and I visit the country ever so often. As I’m writing this, I’m not watching the Presidential Independence Day Reception. Instead, I’m listening to my favorite Christmas carols and eating a blue and white macaron. Later I might light a candle and spend a moment or two in silence. Even the Christmas carols are melancholic, so typically Finnish, I blame my wistful streak on the national character.
Finland has given me a lot. Because of the system that my ancestors created, I have a good education. During the 18 first years of my life, I enjoyed free health care. I could walk home alone in the middle of the night without having to be afraid. I can still do it if I’d like. It has also given me the chance to grow up in a society where we learned to question and to learn. And yes, this is also a good time to reflect on all the sacrifices that the people of Finland made during the wars in the 19th century. Now is also the moment to be grateful to all those people who had the sisu* and the determination to build up the country and the society – more than once.
I must admit that after reading so many beautiful dedications and declarations, stories and narratives online today, this was not an easy blog post to write. I feel quite humble. However, there are just as many voices as there are people. And what you read now is just one of more than five million.
So, we wish you, Finland, a happy 100th birthday. May there be 100 years more to come. Kippis och skål!
*According to Wikipedia:
Sisu is a Finnish concept and cultural construct that is described through a combination of various English terms including stoic determination, grit, bravery, resilience,and hardiness and is held by Finns themselves to express their national character. It is generally considered to not have a literal equivalent in English.
Last but not least, here are the macarons. Blue and white. It’s the wrong shade of blue. They’re far from perfect, too. Let’s just say that it’s the inside that counts…
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