Flag days and holidays

Holidays, special days and flag days in the Finnish calendar

Under the Church Act, the church holidays of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland are Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Epiphany, Good Friday, Easter Day, Easter Monday, Ascension Day, Whit Sunday, Midsummer Day and All Saints’ Day. In addition to these, May Day and Independence Day are national holidays and paid public holidays in Finland. In many collective agreements, Midsummer Eve and Christmas Eve are also defined as paid public holidays. May Day, Midsummer Day and Independence Day are also flag days.

There are two types of flag days: official flag days specified in the decree on flag flying and customary flag days. In addition, Åland and the Saami have their own official flag days.

There are also other special days in the calendar, including Valentine’s Day on 14 February and Entrepreneur Day on 5 September. It has become so customary to celebrate these days that their inclusion in the calendar is considered appropriate.

All the holidays, special days and flag days in the Finnish calendar are described in greater detail below. Those marked with an asterisk (*) are paid public holidays in Finland.

The first of January was defined as the beginning of the year by the Romans in 153 BCE. In Sweden-Finland, the beginning of the year was moved to the beginning of January in 1559, when 1 January was defined as the beginning of the financial year. New Year’s Day is also a church holiday.

Epiphany commemorates the Three Wise Men who came to honour the infant Jesus. It is a church holiday. In Finland, Epiphany also marks the end of the Christmas season.

Prayer days have been celebrated in Finland since 1676, and there used to be four of them per year. In 2008, a system of two annual prayer days was adopted. The January prayer day is held for Christian Unity. The prayer days are annually declared by the President of Finland, who decides at the beginning of their term whether to continue the tradition.

Bishop Henry was originally commemorated on 20 January, but in the 17th century, the day shifted to 19 January. It is only marked in the calendar when the day falls on a Sunday. Bishop Henry is believed to have brought Christianity to Finland. According to legend, Lalli, a peasant, killed the bishop on the ice of Lake Köyliö in the 1150s.

Memorial Day for Victims of Holocaust has been in the calendar since 2002. It is the day of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Candlemas is celebrated on the Sunday falling between 2 February and 8 February. If Shrove Sunday falls on the same day, Candlemas is moved one week earlier. In medieval tradition, the candles used in the church were blessed on this Sunday.

Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804–1877) is considered the national poet of Finland. Starting in 1929, the fifth of February was the name day of Juhana Ludvig. Since 1950 it has figured in the calendar as J. L. Runeberg’s Day. The day was first marked with the Finnish flag symbol in 1976.

The Saami National Day dates back to 1917, when the Saami of Norway and Sweden held their first joint congress in Trondheim. It has been in the calendar since 2004. The day is one of the official flag days of the Saami people.

Valentine’s Day has its roots in Ancient Rome. Romans celebrated Lupercalia, a spring fertility festival, around this time. The Christian church commemorated Valentinus, a martyr, on 14 February, and the Roman customs transferred to this date. Valentine’s Day has been included in the Finnish calendar since 1996.

Shrove Sunday is celebrated seven weeks before Easter. The word “shrove” refers to the confession and forgiveness of sins. Finns typically go sledging on this day. In earlier times, people tried to glide as far as possible in their sledges, shouting “long flax” in the hope of a good flax crop.

The Tuesday following Shrove Sunday is called Shrove Tuesday, which marks the beginning of actual fasting. In Catholic countries, carnivals are typically held around this time. The word carnival comes from the Latin carne vale (“farewell to meat”) because meat was not allowed to be eaten during Lent. In Finland, people took advantage of Shrovetide to feast before they began fasting. Pea soup and “shrove” buns are some of the most typical treats.

Kalevala Day was included in the almanac in 1950, but it has been celebrated in Finland since the 19th century. The date of 28 February refers to the date of the preface to the first edition of the Kalevala published in 1835. The Kalevala, compiled by Elias Lönnrot, is the national epic of Finland.

According to the leap year rule in the Gregorian calendar, every fourth year is a leap year. However, years that are evenly divisible by 100 are leap years only if they are also evenly divisible by 400. In leap years, one day is added to the end of February. Until 2000, leap day was on 24 February, but since then, 29 February has been called leap day in Finland.

Women’s Day has been in the almanac since 1994, and before that, it was inadvertently marked in the calendars of 1990 and 1991. It originated around the same time as Mothers’ Day, in the 1910s. In the past, Mothers’ Day was considered a middle-class holiday and Women’s Day a leftist holiday. Today, Women’s Day is a celebration for all women.

Minna Canth’s Day has been in Finnish calendars since 2007. Canth (1844–1897) was Finland’s first prominent female author and the first Finnish-language female journalist. In her works and writings, Minna Canth highlighted social grievances and advocated, in particular, women’s education, temperance and improving the position of the poor.

During the vernal equinox, the sun moves from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere. At the time of equinox, the sun is exactly above the equator. Day and night are of equal length across the world.

The Annunciation derives its content from Archangel Gabriel’s visit with Virgin Mary. The angel told Mary of the coming birth of Jesus. The day is celebrated nine months before Christmas Day. If Palm Sunday or Easter Day falls between 22 and 28 March, the Annunciation is the Sunday preceding Palm Sunday. Until 1954, the Annunciation was always celebrated on 25 March.

Summer time has been in use in Finland since 1981. In the EU, summer time begins on the last Sunday of March and ends on the last Sunday of October. Until 1995, summer time ended on the last Sunday of September in Finland. At 3 a.m. on Sunday morning, the clocks are moved forward by an hour, to four o’clock. The intention has been to abolish summer time across the EU, but the matter has been delayed.

Palm Sunday is a week before Easter. It commemorates the arrival of Jesus to Jerusalem, where the people laid out palm leaves on the road. In Finland, decorated willow branches are used instead of palm leaves. In the Eastern Finnish tradition, willow branches are waved as a blessing for the coming year.

Good Friday is the Friday before Easter. It commemorates the crucifixion and death of Jesus, and is a church holiday.

Easter Day commemorates Jesus’ resurrection. The date of Easter is calculated according to an old rule, according to which Easter almost always falls on the first Sunday following the full moon occurring after 21 March (in practice, between 22 March and 25 April). Easter is a church holiday.

Easter Monday is the Monday following Easter Day. It is a church holiday. The Christian meaning of Easter Monday is the appearance of Jesus to the disciples. Until 1773, the Finnish calendar also included a third and fourth Easter day.

The International Romani Day was added to the almanac in 2014. Its date traces back to 1971, when the first World Romani Congress was held in London, where, among other things, the flag of the Romani people was adopted.

Mikael Agricola’s day has been in the almanac since 1960. Agricola is known as the father of literary Finnish and a Finnish Protestant reformer. Mikael Agricola is also an important figure for the Finnish almanac, as his Prayer Book, published in 1544, contains the first calendar in Finnish.

National War Veterans’ Day has been in the almanac since 1988. It falls on the day on which the Lapland War ended in 1945. War Veterans’ Day commemorates our war veterans. In honour of War Veterans’ Day, a televised national celebration is organised in a changing locality.

Originally, the day commemorated Saint Walburga and was a celebration of spring and its arrival in Finland. Later, it became a day of celebration for students and workers. The celebration of May Day often begins on May Day Eve.

Europe Day has been in the almanac since 2011. The date of 9 May refers to 1950, when French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman proposed the creation of a European coal and steel community. Finland joined the European Union at the beginning of 1995 together with Sweden and Austria.

Johan Vilhelm Snellman (1806–1881) was a philosopher, statesman and journalist who influenced the development of the Finnish language, nation and state in many ways. Flag flying was recommended as a form of celebrating J. V. Snellman’s Day as early as the 1920s. It was already included in the list of customary flag days in the 1952 almanac. The date coincides with Snellman’s birthday.

In Finland, Mothers’ Day has been celebrated since the 1910s, and it has been in the calendar since 1947. Mothers’ Day traditions include breakfast, flowers and gifts brought to bed, as well as any cards made by children. Late mothers may be remembered by a visit to the cemetery.

Ascension Day is the 39th day after Easter (in practice, 30 April–3 June). It commemorates Jesus’ ascension to heaven and is a church holiday. From 1973 to 1991, Ascension Day was called the Day of Christ’s Ascension in the almanac, and it was celebrated five days earlier, on a Saturday. The idea was to create a full, five-day work week. Since 1992, Ascension Day has again been celebrated in its traditional place on Thursday.

Whit Sunday is the seventh Sunday after Easter. It commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit. Whit Sunday is also considered the birthday of the Church: according to the Bible, the first Christian baptisms were performed during the first Whit Sunday.

Remembrance Day commemorates all those who have died in wars related to Finnish territory and Finns, or in peacekeeping missions, for example. It also pays tribute to all those who died during and after combat, such as those who were executed or died in prison camps. Until 1994, the flag was flown half-mast for part of the day as a sign of mourning. These days, flags are flown full-mast on Remembrance Day, just like on other flag days.

Trinity Sunday is a week from Whit Sunday. It originated in England in the 1100s. This holiday encapsulates the Church’s teaching of the Trinity of God.

The Defence Forces Flag Day is celebrated on the birthday of Marshal C. G. E. Mannerheim. In honour of the day, a parade is held at an annually changing location. In years in which independent Finland celebrates a birthday ending in a five or a zero, the parade is held in Helsinki.

During summer solstice, the sun is farthest away in the northern hemisphere and shines directly on the Tropic of Cancer. This is the longest day in Finland. The summer solstice marks the beginning of the astronomical summer that continues until the autumnal equinox.

Until 1954, Midsummer Day always fell on 24 June. It is also known as the Day of the Finnish Flag. The flag is raised on Midsummer Eve at 6 pm and is allowed to fly throughout the light night until 9 pm on Midsummer Day. From a Christian perspective, Midsummer is celebrated in memory of the birth of John the Baptist. Midsummer is a church holiday. Midsummer Eve, or the Friday before Midsummer Day, is a paid holiday for a large part of the population.

Apostles’ Sunday is the sixth Sunday after Whit Sunday. Its roots trace back to the commemoration day of the martyrdom of the Saints Peter and Paul, which was observed in the Middle Ages on 29 June. In Finland, the day was given up in the great calendar reform of 1772. In our modern calendar, the former commemoration day of 29 June is still visible as the name day of Pietari (“Peter”) and related names. The current Apostles’ Day, celebrated on the sixth Sunday after Whit Sunday, is celebrated in the Lutheran Church of Finland as a commemoration of saints in general, not only Peter and Paul.

Eino Leino’s Day is a customary flag day that has been included in Finnish calendars since 1998. The day is the birthday of the poet Eino Leino, born in 1878.

According to legend, seven Christian youths fled the persecution of Decius, a Roman emperor, to a cave where they slept for almost 200 years. Sleepyhead Day was included in the first Finnish-language calendars in 1705. The current name, Sleepyhead Day, was introduced into the almanac in 1929. Today, Sleepyhead Day is best known for Finland’s Official Sleepy Head chosen and baptised on the day by the town of Naantali.

The Transfiguration falls on the eighth Sunday after Whit Sunday. It makes reference to the event described in the Gospel, in which Jesus appeared to three disciples, transfigured.

The Finnish Nature Day has been in the almanac as a special day since 2020 and as a flag day since 2023. It is celebrated in nature, enjoying the gifts of nature.

Entrepreneur Day was added to the almanac in 2010. It has been celebrated in Finland since the 1990s. On Entrepreneur Day, entrepreneurship education and company visits are organised in educational institutions. Entrepreneurial lectures, events and celebrations are also part of the day’s programme.

At the time of the autumnal equinox, the sun crosses the equator from the north to the south. The nights become longer than the days. The astronomical autumn begins from the autumnal equinox and continues until the winter solstice.

Until 1772, Michaelmas was observed on a fixed day, 29 September, which is still the name day of Mikko and other names derived from Mikael. The day is dedicated to Archangel Michael and all angels.

Miina Sillanpää’s day was included in the calendar in 2023. Sillanpää (1866–1952) was a politician and social influencer and the first female minister in the Finnish Parliament. On 1 October 1906, a new Election Act and Parliament Act entered into force. The Election Act introduced universal and equal voting rights in Finland.

Aleksis Kivi’s Day is the birthday of our national author, Aleksis Kivi (1834–1872). Kivi’s production includes poems, plays and novels. Originally published as four separate booklets, Seitsemän veljestä (“Seven Brothers”) (1870) has achieved the status of national novel in Finland.

United Nations Day has been in the calendar since 1968. In 1987, United Nations Day was marked with a flag symbol in the calendar. The date refers to the founding of the United Nations in 1945. The day is part of the international United Nations Week, always observed 20–26 October.

The day of prayer for peace, human rights and international responsibility coincides with United Nations Day on 24 October. Prayer days have been celebrated in Finland since 1676, and there used to be four of them per year. In 2008, a system of two annual prayer days was adopted. The prayer days are annually declared by the President of Finland, who decides at the beginning of their term whether to continue the tradition.

At 4 a.m. on the last Sunday in October, the clocks return to standard time. The clocks are set back by an hour. Discussions about abandoning summer time have continued for a long time. The Finnish Parliament received a citizens’ initiative on the subject in 2017, and the matter soon progressed to the EU level. The European Commission originally planned to abandon daylight saving time in 2019, but the timetable has been delayed. For the time being, we will continue as we have since 1981: summer time begins on the last Sunday in March and ends on the last Sunday in October.

All Saints’ Day is the Saturday between 31 October and 6 November. Until 1772, it was always took place on 1 November. The day combines two ancient ecclesiastical feasts, the feast commemorating all martyrs and the fest commemorating all the faithful departed. Originally, the day commemorating martyrs was 1 November, and the day commemorating the faithful departed was 2 November. All Saints’ Day is a church holiday.

Reformation Sunday is the 22nd Sunday from Pentecost. It was included in the almanac for the first time in 2001. On this day, the 16th century Reformation is discussed in churches.

Swedish Day has been celebrated in Finland since 1908 at the initiative of the Swedish People’s Party. First included in the almanac in 1979, the day has been a flag day ever since. The date, 6 November, is that of the death of King Gustav II Adolf of Sweden in 1632. The purpose of the day is to highlight the long-term connection between Finland and Sweden and strengthen the solidarity of the Finnish-Swedish population. It also celebrates the status of Swedish as one of the country’s two national languages.

Fathers’ Day has been in the almanac since 1987 as a customary flag day. Since 2019, it has been an official flag day specified in the decree on flag flying. Fathers’ Day is celebrated with family and grandparents. The traditions of the day also include delicious breakfasts and father’s day cards made by children.

The 2nd Sunday before Advent is the penultimate Sunday of the church year, taking place two weeks before the first Advent. This is a time when the Church emphasises being spiritually awake and waiting for the return of Christ.

Children’s Day has been a flag day in Finnish calendars since 2020. It marks the date on which the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted – 20 November 1989. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world.

The Last Sunday in the Church Year takes place a week before the first Advent. The Scriptures related to this day refer to the Last Judgement.

The Sunday falling between 27 November and 3 December. The church year of the Evangelical Lutheran Church begins on Advent Sunday. It is a time of commemorating Jesus’ ride to Jerusalem. For many people, Advent Sunday marks the beginning of preparations for Christmas.

The Sunday between 4 and 10 December.

Independence Day is a public holiday in Finland and has been a paid holiday for a large part of the population since 1929. The Finnish Parliament approved Finland’s declaration of independence on 6 December 1917, but it was not until November 1919 that a decision was made to celebrate 6 December as the anniversary of Finland’s declaration of independence.

Jean Sibelius’ Day has been in the almanac since 2011. It is the birthday of Jean Sibelius, a Finnish master composer (1865–1957). Sibelius made his breakthrough as a composer with the Kullervo Symphony, premiered in 1892. Other well-known works by Sibelius include Finlandia, the Karelia series and seven symphonies.

The Sunday between 11 and 17 December.

The Sunday between 18 and 24 December.

The winter solstice means that the sun shines exactly above the Southern Tropic (or Tropic of Capricorn). The northern hemisphere is tilted away from the sun, and in Finland, the day is at its shortest. The winter solstice marks the beginning of the astronomical winter, which continues until the vernal equinox.

Christmas Day commemorates the birth of Jesus. It is a church holiday and a paid public holiday. Christmas Eve is also a paid holiday for a large part of the population.

Boxing Day commemorates Saint Stephen, the first martyr of Christianity. It is a church holiday and a paid public holiday. It is also called the second day of Christmas.

John the Apostle’s Day is marked in the calendar only when it falls on a Sunday. Prior to the holiday reform of 1772, John the Apostle’s Day was the third day of Christmas and always a church holiday. John the Apostle is considered the author of the Gospel of John.

The day draws its content from the Bible’s narrative about King Herod who had the male children of Bethlehem killed in his attempt to kill the infant Jesus. It is a church holiday when it falls on a Sunday. Prior to the holiday reform of 1772, the Day of Holy Innocents was the fourth day of Christmas and always a church holiday.