“Finland has two official languages: Finnish and Swedish”. That was one of the things I read the most about Finland when I was trying to get more information about the country before I moved in. Even though I must’ve read it at least 20 times, I didn’t really understand the implications of having a country with two official languages, let alone, the implications of studying in a Swedish speaking university. Since I live in a bubble where everyone speaks english, it took me two entire months and two weeks, to fully understand the meaning of it.
A little bit of history….
In order to strengthen the unity of the Swedish speaking minority in Finland, the Swedish people’s Party celebrated the Finnish Swedish Heritage Day for the first time on November 06th 1908, on the same day that King Gustaf II Adolf of Sweden died. In the beginning, the festivities were more about the king, but during the 1930s, the language celebrations were overshadowed by fights between Finnish and Swedish groups. However, during the Second World War, both sides agreed that both language groups were part of Finland. Yay!
After that, the Finnish Swedish Heritage Day gain popularity, becoming an official flag day in Finland in 1979, turning a political festivity into a celebration to the right to use Swedish as a mother tongue.
How to celebrate….
I must say I consider myself as the luckiest international student in Turku for many reasons. One of them is that I had the opportunity to celebrate this special flag day as the Swedish speaker I clearly am not.
So there I was, sitting with two Finns, one Polish and one amazing girl from Azerbaijan, sharing a delicious dinner, watching the big event held at the Swedish theatre of the city, saying “Skål” after the toast. A night full of laughter and stories, a night where four nationalities were represented at the table, pointing out the differences among cultures only to celebrate them, while listening songs in Swedish in the background. If that’s not the spirit of the Finnish Swedish Heritage Day, then I don’t know what it is.