HANCOCK — Today marks the 100th anniversary of Finland’s independence and many came together at the Finnish American Heritage Center in Hancock to celebrate.
In Finland, the annual celebration involves the country’s president inviting 2,600 citizens to the Presidential Palace, who then form a line and take turns shaking hands with the President and his wife, with the event being broadcast on national TV.
“Everybody’s having their own viewing party with their food and snacks and a bunch of friends over so that’s what we’re going for here today. We’re playing bingo, too, and somebody always forgets to shake the president ‘s wife’s hand, so we have a bingo sheet where you can just tick those boxes off. Whatever clichés take place, you know, you can play bingo with the clichés,” said the Finnish American Heritage Center’s Finnish intern Mika Tompuri.
Finland is a country that was once under Swedish rule from the 13th century until 1809, when it became absorbed by Russia. As Russia attempted to make changes to Finnish heritage and change the county’s official language, Finland declared itself an independent nation on this day in 1917.
Although the Soviet Union attempted to regain control of Finland again in World War II, the nation was able to defend itself and maintain its independence.
The first Presidential Reception took place in 1919, and six years later, the hand shaking ceremony was added to the festivities. At the end of Finnish prohibition in 1934, alcohol was added to the reception and, eventually, dancing.
The annual broadcast first aired in 1957 and its estimated that more than half of the country’s population watches the event from home.