Same holidays, different celebrations:
Many of the Finnish holidays are related to Christianity and/or Lutheran Church holidays and are common in other European countries, too. We have, however, our own traditions for celebrating them. For example, the days preceding the actual holidays are often more important than the actual festival day. This goes with celebrations of May Day, Midsummer Day, Christmas and New Year.
1.1. New year's Day (uudenvuodenpäivä)
Holiday. This is more like a "hangover day", than a real celebration day, most of the celebrations take place the night before. On the New Year’s Day the President of the Republic of Finland will give a speech on television.
6.1. Twelfth Day/Epiphany (loppiainen)
Holiday. For Finns this is the last day of the Christmas time. It’s the day when all Christmas decorations are put away.
14.2. Valentine's Day (Ystävänpäivä)
Valentine's Day is not so big thing in Finland. Actually it is quite a new thing here, and its role is different from the original, the Finnish name of the day means friendship day. It is still nice to send cards to friends.
Shrovetide Sunday (laskiaissunnuntai) and Shrovetide Tuesday (laskiaistiistai)
Shrovetide is celebrated 7 weeks before Easter on Sunday and Tuesday. Traditional ways to spend Shrove is sliding downhill on toboggans and eat pea soup and "laskiaispulla", a Finnish sweet bun filled with whipped cream and jam or marzipan.
1.4. April fools' Day (aprillipäivä)
When you have managed to pull someone's leg, say "Aprillia, syö silliä, juo kuumaa kuravettä päälle!"
Palm Sunday (palmusunnuntai)
On the Palm Sunday (the Sunday preceding Easter) Finnish kids dress up as witches and go around their neighbourhood giving "blessings" with decorated branches of willow. They wave the branch and say "Virvon varvon/ tuoreeks' terveeks'/ tulevaks' vuodeks'". After that they get some treats, sweets or money.
The Finnish name for the day means "long Friday". It is a public holiday in Finland, but does not really affect leisure time offerings of that day. Most restaurants, bars, pubs, clubs and cinemas will keep their doors open throughout the Easter. For most Finns the Holy Saturday between the Good Friday and Easter Sunday is a normal Saturday, so all shops are open normally on that day.
Easter Day (pääsiäispäivä)
Easter Day (Sunday) is a public holiday. The day for "mämmi", "pasha" and chocolate. In Finland the Easter Cock brings the chocolate eggs. Easter falls on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25 inclusively.
2nd Easter day (toinen pääsiäispäivä), Easter Monday
1.5. 1st of May, the day of Finnish labour (vappu, suomalaisen työn päivä)
Holiday. The biggest non-religious happening of the year.
Vappu is the celebration of spring, labour and students. All the secondary school graduates have their student's caps on and places are decorated with balloons and streamers. Doughnuts, mead, and "tippaleipä" are traditionally enjoyed. Alcohol is very much involved to this celebration. The biggest celebration takes place in the Eve of Vappu.
Midsummer Eve and Midsummer Day (juhannusaatto and juhannuspä:ivä:)
We celebrate the summer at Midsummer. We burn bonfires and decorate houses with birch branches. Midsummer is the time of magic. There are many different Midsummer magic tricks you can try. You can e.g. collect seven different flowers in silence and put them under your pillow. The next night you will see your husband-to-be. Finnish Midsummer celebrations have pagan roots, but nowadays it is also the day of the St. John and the day of the Finnish flag. The traditional date for the Midsummer Day is 24 June, but nowadays Midsummer Day is celebrated on a Saturday that falls between 20 and 26 June. For most Finns also the Midsummer Eve, i.e. the preceding Friday is a day off from work.
4.11. All Saints' Day (pyhäinpäivä)
Holiday. All Saints' Day is a quiet day when we lit up candles on the graves of the relatives and love-ones passed away.
6.12. Independence Day (itsenäisyyspäivä)
Holiday. Also quietly celebrated. The president of Finland has an Independence Day's reception and a ball. In the evening we lit up two candles on each window.
13.12. Saint Lucia's Day (Lucian päivä)
This day is more celebrated among Swedish-speaking Finnish people. At schools Lucia-maid can be chosen and the story of Saint Lucia is read out. Lucia's buns are baked.
24.12. Christmas Eve (jouluaatto)
In Finland the Christmas Eve is a much more celebrated day than the actual Christmas Day. For most Finns already the Christmas Day is a day off from work. And, as Finland is the home country of Santa Claus, we have of course our own ways to celebrate Christmas. In the morning we have rice porridge, in which there is an almond hidden. The one who has it on the plate will be lucky next year. We go to the graveyard and light up candles on relatives' graves. Later in the evening relatives get together and have a Christmas dinner and Christmas sauna. After that, Father Christmas comes with presents (yes, Santa really comes in person to visit the families with Children).
25.12. Christmas Day (joulupäivä)
Christmas Day is more relaxing: Watching TV, reading books, eating all lovely Christmas food and sweets. Normally Christmas Day was supposed to be spent with family, but nowadays it is ok to meet also friends.
26.12. Boxing Day (Tapanin päivä)
Boxing Day used to be the first day when it was acceptable to go visiting people, but nowadays it is just a third holiday of the Christmas time.
31.12. New Year's Eve (uudenvuoden aatto)
New Year's Eve is a day to spend with friends. We enjoy of food and especially drinks and fire rockets. There is magic in the air in the New Year's Eve. The most popular New Year's magic is to melt down a tin horseshoe and poor it in to cold water. From its shape you can tell your future next year.