HANCOCK - According to Marja Kilpela, Independence Day in Finland is an important day for Finns, but the celebration is quite different from its American counterpart.
Kilpela, who is from Helsinki, said Finnish Independence Day, which is Dec. 6, is celebrated with military parades, church services, and programs in townhalls. There is Christian and national music, prayers, and speeches.
"It's very simple and festive," she said. "It's a very serious celebration."
Kurt Hauglie/Daily Mining Gazette
The members of the Kivajat Dancers serve up baked goodies at a table outside the performance hall at the Finlandia University Finnish American Heritage Center in Hancock Saturday.
Most people put blue and white candles in the windows of their homes to commemorate the colors of the Finnish flag, Kilpela said.
Also as part of the celebration, Kilpela said Finnish celebrities visit the Finnish president's home, and the visit is broadcast nationally on television.
"The whole country follows this," she said.
Kilpela was attending and performing in an Independence Day celebration Saturday at the Finnish American Heritage Center on the campus of Finlandia University in Hancock.
Jim Kurtti, Heritage Center director, said the school has been celebrating Finnish Independence Day in some form for most of the 91 years since Finland gained independence from Russia.
"We're rather proud of that fact," he said.
Kurtti said the Independence Day celebration at Finlandia is usually done on the Sunday closest to Dec. 6, but most times it isn't the actual day, as it was this year.
"It rarely falls on a weekend," he said.
It was snowing heavily Saturday morning, and Kurtti said he wasn't sure how that would affect attendance, but by the start of the program at 2 p.m., most of the seats in the Heritage Center performance hall were filled.
The program Saturday included performances by kantele players, violin players from the Copper Country Suzuki Association, and the Kivajat Dancers, a folk dance troupe, who were also conducting a fund-raising effort during the celebration.
Kay Seppala, director of the Kivajat Dancers, said they have been invited to go to Turku, Finland for the 7th International Children's Folkdance Festival this coming summer.
"This is quite an opportunity for Copper Country kids to dance internationally," she said.
Seppala said the group was invited to the Turku event after organizers saw the Kivajat Dancers at FinnFest in Duluth in July.
There will be 11 dancers traveling to Finland, and the event organizers are paying for room and board for the girls, but they each have to pay their own airfare.
To raise the money for the airfare, Seppala said donations are asked to be sent to Kivajat Dancers at 42290 Paradise Road, Chassell 49916.
Kurt Hauglie can be reached at email@example.com.