It’s Sweden Finns Day on February 24, and we’re giving Finnish-speaking Swedes a voice. This special day is all about honoring their language, culture, and position as a respected and beloved community within Sweden. Emigration between the two countries has a very long history, particularly in the northern border regions. However, a more considerable emigration occurred during World War II, when 70,000 young Finnish children were evacuated to Sweden. While around 15,000 are thought to have stayed, an unknown number returned as adults. Today, there are approximately 500,000 Finnish-speaking Swedes in the country.
History of Sweden Finns Day
Historically, minorities that find themselves in spaces separate from their culture or linguistic comfort zones, like speaking their mother tongue, often get lost in the mix of the broader community. In some cases, they completely lose track of their heritage. That’s why special events like Sweden Finns Day are so essential.
In 2010, The Swedish Academy declared that the day would fall on February 24. A year later, it was celebrated for the first time to honor the birthday of Carl Axel Gottlund, a collector of folk poetry and defender of the Finnish language’s status. Sweden Finns Day is celebrated by Finns living in Sweden to raise awareness of Finnish-speaking communities in the country. Locals know it as ‘Sverigefinnarnas’ Day, with approximately half a million people currently living in Sweden speaking Finnish as their first language.
Finnish communities in Sweden can be traced back to the Reformation when the Finnish Church in Stockholm was founded in 1533. However, earlier instances of migration or movement to other cities in modern-day Sweden have also been recorded. Recent research from a Finnish language channel, Sveriges Radio Finska, shows that nearly 470,000 people speak or understand Finnish or Meänkieli, distinct Finnish dialects or a Finnic language spoken in Sweden’s far north accounting for approximately 4.5% of Sweden’s population in 2019. Sweden Finns Day highlights these Finnish-speaking communities, gives them a voice, listens to their beautiful language, and allows them to feel pride in it.
Sweden Finns Day timeline
Large groups migrate from Finland to Sweden primarily because of economic differences.
Finns in Sweden are officially recognized as a national minority group.
The Flag of the Sweden Finns is designed to combine Swedish and Finnish colors.
Sweden Finns Day is celebrated for the first time on the birthday of national treasure Carl Axel Gottlund, a collector of folk poetry.
Sweden Finns Day FAQs
Are Swedes and Finns related?
Finns are not considered Scandinavians because they are part of the Baltic Finnic ethnic group (as Sweden is). There is, however, a subgroup of approximately 450,000 Sweden Finns whose ancestors and ethnicity are identical to Swedes in Sweden.
How long did Sweden rule Finland?
Finland belonged to Sweden for nearly 700 years, from around 1150 to the Finnish War of 1809, when it became an autonomous part of the Russian Empire as the Grand Duchy of Finland.
Did Vikings rule Finland?
During the Viking Age, Finland was along the northern border of the trade routes to Russia, and the locals supplied furs. The Finns did not appear to participate in the Viking expeditions.
How to Observe Sweden Finns Day
Teach yourself Finnish phrases
To celebrate the Finnish language, you can learn some phrases and impress your friends and guests at your next dinner party. It can also teach a lot about a country when you understand how they speak and how their sentences are constructed. After all, language is the key to understanding others.
Watch a Finnish film
In films, characters don’t just speak the language. They embody the spirit of their environment — from how Finnish people dress, behave, talk, eat, and fall in love, for example. Great cinema, usually in the language it was meant to be watched, can give us context to understand communities. Great Finnish films, like “Valkoinen peura” (“The White Reindeer”), released in 1952, and “Mies vailla menneisyyttä” (“The Man Without a Past”), released in 2002, are classic watches.
Make a traditional Finnish dish
If you’re not speaking the language, you might as well eat something authentically Finnish to experience the culture. Many dishes came from Finland and were combined with Swedish techniques. Go-to culinary standouts include sour-sweet bread made of rye and malt flour and Karelian pasties, which are pasties with a thin crust filled with rice. You can easily find these recipes online and invite some Finnish friends over for a taste of home.
5 Interesting Facts About Finnish
It has long words
With 61 letters, ‘lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilas’ is the longest compound word and translates to “airplane jet turbine engine auxiliary mechanic noncommissioned officer student.”
The language has no gender
Unlike French and Spanish, Finnish has no grammatical gender, making it a gender-neutral language.
All dots matter in Finnish
The words are pronounced exactly as they are written because there is 100% correspondence between letters and sounds, which means every diacritic is significant.
Finnish words have literal English translations
For example, a ‘refrigerator’ is called an ‘ice cupboard’ (‘jääkaappi’), and a ‘computer’ is called a ‘knowledge machine’ (‘tietokone’).
‘Sauna’ is Finnish and used worldwide
The word is used worldwide and spelled the same way in most languages.
Why Sweden Finns Day is Important
Language is important and should be honored
Through the years, many languages and cultures have disappeared. We celebrate a language to ensure that it remains actively used and show that people can still use it to communicate. Naturally, when people can speak their language, they are happier, feel more understood, and are more prone to enjoy themselves at work and in their private lives because they can comfortably express themselves.
A minority is celebrated
History has not been kind to minorities. We’re all on the same page about this, so we should celebrate minorities on days like Sweden Finns Day. When we give minorities the space and platform to be proud of their culture, language, and traditions, we provide them with the opportunity to be themselves — one of the greatest gifts we can give communities.
Society becomes more welcoming
By celebrating communities and different languages and cultures, we are given opportunities to learn more about people and places we don’t necessarily know. When we meet and talk with strangers and get to know them, we’re not only being kind to our fellow human beings but showing that we are interested in and respect one another. Giving minorities a voice is an extraordinary and beautiful thing.
Sweden Finns Day dates