Saunas, knitting, 'snow swimming': Finland kicks off centenary celebrations on New Year's Eve

Warm up the sauna. It's time to celebrate 100 years of Finnish Independence.

The theme of Finland's 2017 centenary celebration is 'Together'

Many of Finland's 2017 centenary celebrations will be built around the sauna, said Pekka Timonen, Finland 100 General Secretary. (Jukka Rapo)

Warm up the sauna, because 2017 will be a time to celebrate all things Finnish. 

On New Year's Eve, as Canadians ring in the country's 150th birthday, people in Finland are also celebrating a major milestone: 100 years of independence. 

The Nordic country is kicking off a year of celebrations on New Year's Eve, with a huge outdoor party in Helsinki that's expected to attract up to 100,000 revelers. 

"The key message to all the Finns and everybody out there is ... 'Here we go!'," said Pekka Timonen, Finland 100 General Secretary. "Finland starts its very special year and we will celebrate our independence all year round." 

The hundredth anniversary of Finnish independence is an opportunity for the country to reflect on its past, and to think about its future, said Pekka Timonen, one of the government officials charged with planning the celebrations. (Finnish Government)

Throughout 2017, Finns are planning events big and small to mark the centenary, said Timonen, and while hundreds of nation-wide projects are planned, many more are being organized by individual groups and citizens.

Saunas, knitting, 'snow swimming' 

"People have basically gone crazy," said Timonen, noting that so far, about 3,000 different centenary events are planned, more than a few built around that essential Finnish activity: the sauna. 

There are "many projects that are putting people together in a hot room," said Timonen.

Of course, it wouldn't be Finland if there wasn't a little winter frost to balance that heat. Among the more quirky activities planned for 2017 is a 'snow swimming' event, where people clad in bathing suits will race through snow drifts. 

Other activities in the country are being built around nature, singing and knitting.

Finnish citizens have been encouraged to plan their own projects to mark the centenary, said Pekka Timonen, Finland 100 General Secretary. Some people have chosen to organize knitting projects. (Suvi-Tuuli Kankaanpaa)


Amidst the celebratory fun, the centenary of Finland's hard won independence from the Russian Empire is also a time to reflect on Finnish identity, and values, said Timonen, adding that the country has strong beliefs about such things as democracy, free speech and education.

The centenary theme of "Together," is an important one, he said.

"Our goal is to strengthen the feeling of togetherness in Finland," he said, the idea "that we can build and create even better things together."

"But also it's a message for all the friends of Finland globally. Let's celebrate together."

The centenary year will culminate on December 6, Finnish Indepedence Day.

In Helsinki, workers are seen assembling one of the stages that will host musicians and performers on New Year's Eve, as Finland kicks off a year of much anticipated centenary celebrations. (Finnish Government)