Finnish culture and traditions

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Finnish culture and traditions

Postby Antea » 2018-11-03, 16:37

So, I’ve learned that today is “Kekri day” in Finland, and I thought it could be a good idea to start a post about different cultures and traditions in Finland, that could also help us to practice the language :yep:

https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-10486754
Last edited by Antea on 2018-11-03, 17:18, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Finnish culture and traditions

Postby Antea » 2018-11-03, 16:43

I also found a program in Karelian language, about the same tradition (I guess, because I still haven’t finished to watched it) but with Russian subtitles, that could be useful if you don’t understand Finnish very well (like myself :roll: )

https://youtu.be/6d4Ru7mWkFM

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Re: Finnish culture and traditions

Postby Naava » 2018-11-03, 18:08

Awesome thread, thanks Antea! :y:

It's not kekri day as such because there wasn't a fixed day for it: it was celebrated around October and November. I don't know but I would imagine it depended on the harvest because that's what kekri is about: celebrating the end of summer and eating what you've harvested. Sadly, Christianity somewhat destroyed the tradition and replaced it with pyhäinpäivä, which is today. It's a day for remembering saints and all the dead relatives of your family. Originally, it was two Christian celebrations that were combined after reformation. People bring candles to their family graves but as far as I know, that's it. Kinda lame if compared to what kekri used to be. :D

It seems some parts of Finland have a living kekri tradition, like that kekripukki Kajaani has. I've also seen lots of comments lately where people complain about "the American Halloween" and say that we have kekri, it's ours, and we should stick to it instead of copying others.

Personally, the first time I heard of kekri was in school when the school canteen was filled with decorations and the lunch menu was harvest themed for the whole week. I liked it, and after some research to find out what it was, I learnt that the tradition of eating ham in Christmas is actually a kekri tradition. It made a lot of sense because pigs were slaughtered in autumn. FYI how I know this: every time I was reluctant to eat something as a kid, mum would tell me "syö, syö, sika, syksyllä tapetaan" - eat, eat, pig, you'll be killed in autumn. It's a real proverb, btw. #happychildhood :mrgreen:

Wikipedia has an article about kekri in Finnish and in English (although it's a much shorter version) if you're interested. What I found interesting is the weird love of goats: we had a kekripukki, who went form house to house to ask for food and checking that all the harvest work had been finished, and nuuttipukki, who did the same but asked for food/beer left from Christmas. They're also the reason why we call Santa joulupukki aka Yule Goat. It might also explain why our Santa comes to visit the family in the evening and gives the gifts to your hands rather than leaving them in secret at night, but I think it's the same in Sweden (and probably elsewhere in Scandinavia) and I've heard Russian Ded Moroz can visit people's homes, too, so there's probably more traditions than just our own behind joulupukki.

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Re: Finnish culture and traditions

Postby Naava » 2019-02-14, 18:11

Today is a special celebration day - penkkarit!

Image
Picture from Yle.

Penkkarit (or penkinpainajaiset, 'pressing-the-chair') is the last school day of the 3rd graders in high school (or lukio). The name refers to the reason why their school year ends so soon: they're given lukuloma or a break for studying for the final and most important of their exams, the matriculation examination. The break is indeed needed because these exams will cover everything that has been taught during the three years the students have spent in high school. The grades will also determine who can continue their studies in university, which doesn't help with the stress at all. If you're interested, you can read more about the matriculation examination here.

But before the nervous last-minute-studying, the students take everything they can out of their last day in school. The exact traditions vary school by school, but usually the day begins with some sort of tricks or mischievous plans carried out by the 3rd graders. For example, interrupting lessons and "redecorating" the school are more or less popular things to do.

► Show Spoiler

My school had a tradition of letting the 3rd graders do the morning greeting, which is usually a short speech followed by music and broadcasted via the school tannoy system in each morning. Well, our music teacher had a CD full of folk / aboriginal music across the world - everything from Mongolian throat singing to American folk songs. We took the CD, put it in the player and went to the gym hall to prepare for the rest of the day. Later on, a friend of mine (who was in the 2nd grade back then) told me the teachers had not stopped the music as we had thought they would, but instead they let the CD play for the whole hour while they continued with their lessons like nothing was out of ordinary. :lol:

Another thing the 3rd graders like to do is to reward the teachers in some way. It can be a play or a humorous short video or parody songs that are sung to the school - again, traditions vary. In Southern Ostrobothnian high schools, the students most commonly sing well known songs with their own lyrics that describe the teachers and the staff. The 3rd graders dress in folk dresses for this, which is not done anywhere else in Finland as far as I know.

► Show Spoiler

The best part of the day is the truck ride. The 3rd graders dress up in costumes*, get on trucks, and throw sweets to other students, pupils, and people who've gathered to watch as the trucks go around the city/town. The routes are usually planned so that the trucks will visit school yards, so that the kids won't miss it. (After the trucks are gone, the kids always count how many sweets they got. There's always some poor soul who didn't get any or only got a few. At least my teachers gave their sweets to those kids. I'm sure there's some way of balancing out the sweets distribution in other schools, too.)

The trucks are decorated with banners* that the students paint themselves. There are some popular jokes that circulate every year, often based on the word abi (short for abiturientti, a 3rd year student). One very common theme is joking about your own lack of skills, how little you've learnt, or how you plan to take the exams easy. Memes are a big source of inspiration, too. Some jokes refer to the school the students are from, often making puns with the school's name. Some refer to politics in satirical way. Sometimes the jokes can be a combination of all of the above.

* not every school has the costumes / banners. When I was on the truck, we met a truck from another school which had neither the costumes or the banners (the truck had its own ads, which they weren't allowed to cover). You can imagine how much we yelled and jeered at them. :lol:

► Show Spoiler

After the ride, the students go to a cruise. The main point is to drink, party, and spend time together. The cruise goes either from Turku or Helsinki to Stockholm and back, or from Helsinki or Turku to Tallinn, where the students spend the night in a hotel and party in the city. I'm very sorry for the citizens of Tallinn... :lol:

The next day is the time for vanhojen tanssit (also known as wanhojen tanssit, wanhain tanssit, vanhain tanssit or simply wanhat). Since the 3rd graders are gone, the 2nd graders are now the oldest in the school. To celebrate this, they perform ballroom dances to their parents and to the students and pupils of nearby schools. The dances chosen for the performance vary by the school, but I doubt you could have wanhojen tanssit without Cicapo or Kehruuvalssi! (Warning: these are both earworms.) The students have also created their own dance, which is meant to be funny and entertaining. The dancing takes the entire day: because everyone wouldn't fit in the same room at once, students usually give 2-3 performances in total for different audiences. In some schools, the students and their teachers go to have drinks together after the dances; but quite often, the students will spend the rest of the evening in their own groups of friends.

Cicapo & Kehruuvalssi
https://youtu.be/GYUppMF7AF4

Dance made by the students
https://youtu.be/ncdHSZ9glGI

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Re: Finnish culture and traditions

Postby Antea » 2019-02-14, 19:27

That’s amazing! I didn’t know. Thanks for sharing this information :yep:

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Re: Finnish culture and traditions

Postby Antea » 2021-02-28, 9:30

I was listening to a podcast that explained that today is the "Kalevala day", because it was first published a 28 Februar. I was thinking about how little I know about this important part of tradition. Has someone read or studied the Kalevala?

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Re: Finnish culture and traditions

Postby Naava » 2021-02-28, 10:58

Antea wrote:I was thinking about how little I know about this important part of tradition. Has someone read or studied the Kalevala?

Pretty much everyone in Finland, at least to a certain extent. What would you like to know? :)

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Re: Finnish culture and traditions

Postby Antea » 2021-02-28, 13:28

I have found a translation in English, and I am going to start reading. I hope it won't be very difficult :whistle:

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Re: Finnish culture and traditions

Postby Linguaphile » 2021-02-28, 15:53

Antea wrote:I was listening to a podcast that explained that today is the "Kalevala day", because it was first published a 28 Februar. I was thinking about how little I know about this important part of tradition. Has someone read or studied the Kalevala?

As Naava said, it's quite important and well-known. The funny thing is that I have copies of it in three languages (Finnish, English, Estonian) and know the basics of the plot, but I don think I've ever actually read it from beginning to end (in any language), just parts of it.
By the way Kalevala also has a "little sister," the book Kanteletar (which I have in Finnish and English). And an "Estonian son," the book Kalevipoeg (which I have in Estonian and English).
:mrgreen:

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Re: Finnish culture and traditions

Postby Naava » 2021-03-01, 14:11

Linguaphile wrote:
Antea wrote:I was listening to a podcast that explained that today is the "Kalevala day", because it was first published a 28 Februar. I was thinking about how little I know about this important part of tradition. Has someone read or studied the Kalevala?

As Naava said, it's quite important and well-known. The funny thing is that I have copies of it in three languages (Finnish, English, Estonian) and know the basics of the plot, but I don think I've ever actually read it from beginning to end (in any language), just parts of it.

Neither have I. We were taught the plot in school, and I've read some runes from here and there, but never the entire book. I think it'd be more entertaining if it was sung; it's quite heavy text to read.

Since this is a Finnish culture thread and you (Antea) said that you don't know anything about Kalevala, I feel like I should explain to you where Kalevala comes from before you read it. It is an interesting story on its own, but I also believe knowing its background can help you to understand it better.

To summarise, it was published in the 1800s when nationalism was A Big Thing in Finland. People (especially the Swedish speaking elite) were trying to find and create a Finnish identity that would be separate from both Swedish and Russian identities, and to use that to build a sense of unity between the ruling elite and the common folk. Kalevala was one of the tools to achieve this, and its importance to the Finnish culture stems from that. Like the kalevalaseura.fi says, Kalevala became "the symbol of the Finns' past, nationality, language, and culture to the Finnish intelligentsia, on which they started to build the frail Finnish identity. It sparked interest even abroad and made the small, unknown people famous among other Europeans."[1] It was a way of showing to the world (and to Finns themselves) that such a thing as Finnish culture even existed: a proof that Finns weren't just uncivilised peasants living in the woods, but instead had a beautiful national epic just like the Ancient Greeks had their Iliad and Odyssey. [2]

Moreover, Lönnrot also wished to develop the (standard) Finnish language. [source] Kalevala was published at a time when "the battle of dialects" took place: the literature written so far had been based on (South) Western dialects, but now the supporters of the Eastern dialects had waken up and demanded those dialects should be used as the basis of written Finnish instead of the Western dialects. [3] Kalevala as a famous ancient epic written mostly in Eastern dialects (and partly in Karelian, with some Western influence mixed in) [4] helped to defend their arguments, but it also gave one example of using both Western and Eastern features in the same text. (In the end, a compromise was indeed made: the standard Finnish we use today is a combination of both Eastern and Western dialects.)

(Here's the footnotes:)
► Show Spoiler


Ever since it was published, Kalevala has been (and most likely will be) a very important part and, in a sense, a source of Finnish culture. It itself has shaped the Finnish identity and language, but it has also inspired many other authors and artists. (For example, there's the Kullervo symphony by Sibelius, a play on the same subject by Aleksis Kivi, several operas by Rautavaara, and the famous painting of the story of Aino by Akseli Gallen-Kallela that I swear every Finn has seen.) However, you probably shouldn't think Kalevala is the result of (ancient) Finnish culture. There's two reasons for that.

First of all, Lönnrot collected the poems mainly from Karelia [source] [1]. The idea was that these faraway lands had preserved the original, shared mythos that had been lost in Finland. Unfortunately, I don't know enough to say for sure if this is true or not. In any case, what is true is that none of the poems in Kalevala came from Western, Southern or Northern Finland. Even if these areas had had similar poetical traditions, they are not directly represented in Kalevala. This is why some Karelian activists have lately argued that Kalevala is in fact a Karelian epic written by a Finnish man, and claiming it as Finnish without a mention of its Karelian roots is an act of cultural appropriation. [source]

Secondly, the poems were not written down as they were sung. Lönnrot listened to over 70 rune singers on his journeys, and you bet none of them recited the entire Kalevala exactly as it was published in the end: even though the characters were the same, one singer could sing a story another signer had never heard, and those who sang about the same story gave different versions of it. [2] What Lönnrot then did was to compare what he had heard and work on it as if it was a puzzle: he chose some poems and left some out, put them in order that would create a (more or less) coherent plot line, altered verses that didn't fit, added his own verses to fill any gaps between the runes he had recorded... [3] As a result, Kalevala is very much the result of Lönnrot's work. Even if the rune singers had passed their knowledge to the next generations, Kalevala wouldn't exist without Lönnrot. This is also why the Karelian activists, while wishing the epic's roots were made more visible, wouldn't want to claim it as theirs alone: "Kalevala does not and could not belong to one nation alone", as Eila Stepanova [4] says. [source] Here's also a translation of an article, where a few other Karelians explain what they think of the matter:
► Show Spoiler

(And here's the footnotes:)
► Show Spoiler


P.s. Spot the student who was supposed to work on her thesis but who instead decided to write an essay on Kalevala. I have no regrets.

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Re: Finnish culture and traditions

Postby Antea » 2021-03-02, 8:52

Naava wrote:Since this is a Finnish culture thread and you (Antea) said that you don't know anything about Kalevala, I feel like I should explain to you where Kalevala comes from before you read it. It is an interesting story on its own, but I also believe knowing its background can help you to understand it better.


Waw, Thanks a lot! :D This is a very interesting a comprehensive explanation. I have to re-read it because there is a lot of interesting information. Yes, I have to say that the podcast I listened to about "Kalevala" was a Karelian podcast (though they talked in Russian), and in their programs and the in library activities of that region, they speak a lot about it.

All this make me wanderlust again for learning Finnish :yep:

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Re: Finnish culture and traditions

Postby Naava » 2021-03-02, 10:11

Antea wrote:
Naava wrote:Since this is a Finnish culture thread and you (Antea) said that you don't know anything about Kalevala, I feel like I should explain to you where Kalevala comes from before you read it. It is an interesting story on its own, but I also believe knowing its background can help you to understand it better.


Waw, Thanks a lot! :D This is a very interesting a comprehensive explanation. I have to re-read it because there is a lot of interesting information.

I'm glad you enjoyed it! Took me a while to find the sources and write the text, so it's nice to hear it wasn't for nothing. :)

All this make me wanderlust again for learning Finnish :yep:

Yes yes yes...! :mrgreen:


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