The first week of December is shaping up to be one of the busiest weeks of the year in Finland with tens of thousands of tourists and delegates descending on events in the north and south; while the whole country gets ready to celebrate 101 years of independence.
Lapland Christmas experience
It’s full speed ahead for the festive season in Lapland, even if some UK newspapers have complained there’s not a lot of snow! Charter flights disgorge tourists from all across Europe looking for that authentic Lapland Christmas experience.
“There are about 700 charter flights so if they are using those Boeing 737 or Airbus 320 or 321 then it’s more than 120,000 passengers, plus the direct flights to Ivalo, Rovaniemi and Kittilä” says Timo Rautajoki, from the Lapland Chamber of Commerce.
And when passengers get off their flights, they’ll see snow. After a slow start, the snow is back on the ground as well.
“After last night, it is back to normal! You can see the colour is white at the moment” says Rautajoki, with 10cm in the south of Lapland, and more in the north.
Slush tech & startup expo begins
It’s not snow, but Slush which brings 20,000 visitors to Helsinki’s Messukeskus for two days this week. The annual tech and startup conference begins on Tuesday with more investors than ever before, a hectic programme of parties, meetings, announcements and hopefully funding partnerships for Finnish companies.
CEO Andreas Saari says it seems to be getting easier to attract people to Helsinki each year, especially those willing to open their wallets with investment cash.
“We have a record number of investors going, it has actually been quite a steady growth over the past couple of years. Always a couple of hundred more per year” says Saari.
“I think the main driver for that is just a greater number of Finnish startups, to be honest, that pop out during the year. And then the other thing that drives it for sure is that Slush has somehow become this place to meet, the place to gather” he tells News Now Finland.
Read more about Slush 2018 at our original article here.
Christmas markets open
Towns and cities have also strung up their best Christmas lights and opened winter markets.
An estimated 30,000 people visited Turku’s Christmas market last weekend alone; and Helsinki’s Christmas Market – the biggest and oldest in the city – opened this weekend offering food, drinks, seasonal produce, carousel rides, Christmas gifts and even a sauna. The 133 huts at the Senate Square market also feature vendors from different parts of Finland – with jewelry from Kolari in northern Finland, to Christmas handicrafts from Hanko in the south.
Christmas paths are another special feature at this time of year with several around the city featuring candles, elves and forest creatures, and even gnomes at Suomenlinna.
New Central Library unveiled
Another big project that opens this week is the new Oodi Central Libarary in Helsinki’s Töölönlahti neighbourhood.
Opposite parliament, the library includes a cafe, restaurant, cinema, art and studio facilities, and an urban workshop with 3D printers and laser cutters – and as well as 150,000 books, there’s also board games, sheet music, video games, and movies on DVD and BluRay .
“The story of the public library is the story of communal Finland. No, the era of Oodi is about to begin” says Culture Minister Sampo Terho (Blue).
“Library as a gift to the independence of Finland symbolises the Finnish civilisation ideal and reflects our unique relationship with the library institution” he explains.
Oodi opens to the public on 5th December, although the full range of services will roll out over the next several weeks as the finishing touches are put to the new library.
Independence Day Party
The President’s annual Independence Day party draws Finland’s biggest television audience of the year – which families tune in to watch the red carpet arrivals and see who got invited, and what they’re wearing!
This year the environment and sustainability are the themes of the reception, and the guest list includes Finns who have taken action to promote the climate and environment.
The food and drinks are sourced from predominantly local materials, in particular organic products that have a small environmental footprint have been selected.
Even the music this year has a nature theme, and almost all the flowers used for decoration are from Finnish gardens that use renewable energy sources.