Like most other countries in the west, the Finnish have a celebration on the 14th February every year. Finnish Valentine’s Day has the same origins as it does in other countries; it is based around the legend of St Valentinus who was martyred when he helped Roman soldiers to marry against their oath. However, Valentines Day was only lately adopted into Finnish culture and so has been interpreted quite differently. In Finland the day is called ‘Ystavanpaiva’ which translates as ‘Friend’s Day’. As the name would suggest, for Finns the day exists as a celebration of friendship, rather than romance.
On ‘Friend’s Day’ gifts of chocolates, confectionary and roses are given to friends and family, as well as partners. Cards are another gesture offered to convey friendship. Every year, the Finnish post office produces ever more inventive cards and stamps to mark the occasion.
In Finland February 14th is officially a festival and Finns approach ‘Friend’s Day’ with the same enthusiasm as any other festival. On that day in Finland, instead of romantic meals for two, you are more likely to attend a street party or a gathering at a family house.
Like any other feast day, traditional Finnish food is prepared and the result is a vast spread of food with everything from Gravalax to special cakes and puddings.
In Finland Valentine’s Day is more about friendship and community than private, partner-based celebrations. Do you think Finns have the right idea? Why not check out Finland yourself and decide?!