Friends in Finland

“Friends in Finland,” Friend, Jan. 1972, 10

Friends in Finland

Saturday is sauna day in Finland. The sauna is a log cabin or wooden room that is very hot and dry where all the families go for their baths. Water is splashed over hot rocks to make steam. After people are very warm and have perspired for a long time, they cool off by taking a cold shower or jumping into a lake. This is a good way to feel clean and refreshed. Even small children bathe this way, and if friends are visiting, they are invited into the sauna too.

Finnish people keep their homes and cities very clean. Helsinki, the capital city, is one of the cleanest cities in the world. If a house is not painted when needed, the city has it painted and sends the painting bill to the owner.

Finland is a northern country with many forests and lakes. There are over 60,000 lakes, so water sports such as swimming, rowing, canoeing, and fishing are enjoyed by Finnish children. In the winter when the lakes freeze over, children ice-skate, play bandy (ice hockey), or fish through holes cut in the ice. The Finns will tell you that swimming in ice cold water is good for you. They even swim outdoors in winter.

Children in Finland love summer because the sun shines in the sky all day and nearly all night. Midsummer’s Day (June 24), the longest day of the year, is celebrated with bonfires and folk dancing.

Wintertime is quite opposite, because there is very little daylight. Finnish children go to school and come home in the dark. They play outside by the light of the moon and the brilliant northern lights.

All the children in Finland go to school when they are seven years old. They have a great love for reading and for books. There are more books sold in Finnish bookstores than anywhere else in the world.

The children learn to read and write Finnish and usually learn Swedish as a second language. Not many years ago they would have learned only Swedish. Their own language was dying out and was not spoken. Then in the early 1800’s a young Finn named Elias Lonnrot began traveling about Finland collecting legends, folk songs, and riddles. To do this, he had to learn Finnish, as he had been taught only Swedish in school. Mr. Lonnrot wanted Finnish people to speak and write their own language and to be proud of their heritage. He published all the old legends and folk songs he had gathered and had them printed in the Finnish language. Through the efforts of Lonnrot and other literary patriots, Finnish has become the country’s major language.

Children in Finland have as much fun taking down Christmas trees in January as they have putting them up in December. January 13th is called the Day of Nuutti, or the last day of Christmas. Children go from house to house robbing the Christmas trees of paper decorations and goodies to eat. They dance around the trees and sing songs in celebration.

Did you know?

Finnish schools have a short vacation in the winter just for skiing.

Finland is referred to as the Land of Thousands of Lakes. Throughout the countryside there are 60,000 lakes. And there are about 80,000 islands along the country’s rocky shoreline!

Ninety-nine out of every hundred persons in Finland can read and write.

The national flag of Finland is a white field with a light blue cross. The blue stands for the country’s lakes and rivers, and the white represents the snow.

The tone poem Finlandia was written by Jan Sibelius, Finland’s best-known composer.

Kalevala is a compilation of Finnish folk verses dealing with the deeds of three great brothers. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow used the meter or rhythm of this compilation to write his Hiawatha.

“Maamme,” which means “Our Land,” is the national anthem of Finland.

The Nobel Prize in Literature for 1939 was awarded to Finnish author Frans Eemil Sillanpaa.

Eliel Saarinen, city planner and a Finnish architect of the modern school, is famous for designing the National Museum and the railway station in Helsinki.

Illustrated by Ginger Brown