The last 4th of July that we celebrated in the United States featured bicycle jousting with Roman Candles, people setting off bottle rockets while holding them in their teeth, an attempt to blow up a bottle of Mountain Dew with Black Cats, and at least one near-death experience when a mortar tube tipped over and one of the shells hit me in the shoulder and blew up all around my head. There were also, of course, many cheeseburgers and hot dogs.
Yesterday was Finland's Independence Day and it was a study in stark contrast. Finland has only been independent since 1917, and immediately after this achievement it plunged into World War I and World War II, which they consider (correctly) to be two parts of the same conflict. There are still people alive in Finland who participated in the defense of the country against the Russian effort to re-annex Finland. After the war the Soviets wound up with approximately 10% of Finland's territory and its second largest city, and there was severe economic depression because, like many other countries, Finland also had to pay war reparations to the country that defeated it. Unlike any other country on earth, they actually paid them in full and five years early. So one can understand why Finland celebrates their independence in a bit more somber, dignified manner than most in the US (including myself).
The typical way to celebrate independence in Finland is a dinner around the table with family or friends and the lighting of a blue and white candle, followed by gathering around the television to watch the official gala at the Presidential Palace. Our friends Elina and Maija invited us to their house, where Elina made an awesome dinner of salmon, vegetables, and champagne. At her suggestion Lyndsey brought a pumpkin pie, and also Chili Cheddar Pinwheels. Then we retired to the television set to pass judgement on the fashion sense of Finland's rich and powerful. Maybe the craziest dress was the Angry Birds-themed getup that the wife of the Angry Birds guy wore (thanks to Jacqui for the link). Our friend Lyndsey Hoh also made an appearance on national TV when she performed with an orchestra in Espoo that was broadcast live all over the country.
Lyndsey and I realized the other day that we only have like 8 more weekends in Finland. Then a quick stop in Paris, then back to the States. I can't quite believe it.