28 February is Kalevala day

NOW that you’ve scoffed your cut-price Runeberg’s tortes and enjoyed the gluttonous cream-fest that is Shrovetide, don’t forget that on 28 February some poor, cake-bloated individual will drag themselves outside to hoist the flag yet again for Kalevala Day. On this day we celebrate the national epic, an oral tradition collected from the firesides of 19th century Finland and given the form of print by Elias Lönnrot. But what does Kalevala actually mean to the average Finn? SixDegrees asked a few people.

“It’s full of rape, murder and robbery. Like normal Finnish life. Väinämöinen somehow had something to do with the creation of the world. I think a sea-duck laying an egg came into it somehow too. He sang all the things into the world - the rivers, the lakes, the swamps and so on and so on(the list is very long and complicated).” -Jarno (37)

“Somehow we’re all super proud of this book that we’ve never actually read. You’re supposed to hate it and think it’s lame when you’re a kid. Your teacher is desperately trying to convince you how cool and hip it really is. Every year on Kalevala day you must listen to random stories that make no sense to you in a language that vaguely sounds like Finnish. Later on you grow up and suddenly regret never having read it. You think that Kalevala is pretty damn cool and hip after all. You even talk about thinking about reading it.” -Stippe (25)

“I’ve never read it except when I had to at school. It’s something I’ve always wanted to read and I’ve been meaning to read it. I don’t really know which one is which and who does what” -Taru (24)

“We were forced to read it in school.” -Jukka and Liisa (both in their 70s)

Well, at least the attitude hasn’t changed throughout the ages. Perhaps if we had a Kalevala cake we might have all paid a bit more attention in school? Then again, in intellectual terms, it didn’t do a whole lot for Runeberg and Jesus.

Sarah Hudson