Flags flying for Helatorstai holiday

The religious holiday used to be more strictly observed in Finland in the 1900s but not any more.

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File picture of waving Finnish flag, with Helsinki in the background / Credit: iStock

If you’re wondering why the flags are flying today in Finland, it’s because of the Helatorstai public holiday – or Ascension Day in English.

The day is celebrated by Christian churches as the date when they believe Jesus Christ appeared to his followers and ascended to heaven 40 days after his crucifixion.

Although the date of Helatorstai varies each year, as the date of Easter varies, the 40th day after Easter Sunday is always a Thursday.

In Finland that means a public holiday although it’s not as strictly adhered to as in previous years, with many shops usually still open and public transport running a weekend service. However during the coronavirus crisis you’re likely to see nothing much different from any other day this week – although schools are closed again today.

Helatorstai used to be one of the most important holidays in the Finnish religious calendar back in the 1900s. According to an old saying the day was so sacred that even grass didn’t grow.