Lakes, coffee and Santa Claus: Finland turns 100

By Victoria Park
BBC News

Image source, Visit Finland
Image caption,
One of Finland's 187,888 lakes

One hundred years ago, following the Russian Revolution, the Republic of Finland was born. On 6 December 1917 Finland became a nation state with its own identity, language, cuisine, traditions and culture.

#Suomi100 has been tweeted almost 33,000 times in the past week, and #Finland100 almost 14,000 times.

So what is unique about Finland? Five Finns tell us their favourite things about their country from the "real" home of Santa Claus, to the Finnish baby box.

1. 187,888 lakes

Image source, Jason Tiilikainen
Image caption,
One of Finland's many lakes by photographer Jason Tiilikainen

"My favourite thing about Finland is its many lakes," says photographer Jason Tiilikainen, who lives in Joensuu in the south east of Finland. "I love how they change throughout the year, providing amazingly tranquil scenes that inspire my photography.

"There's also nothing quite like coming out of a hot sauna and jumping right into the cool and fresh water. Good times!"

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2. "Finnish babies nap outside"

Image source, Finnish Baby Box
Image caption,
A Moomin-themed Finnish baby box

Finland is the home of baby box. "The history dates back to the 1930s when the first versions of it were introduced," says Heikki Tiittanen, father of three and CEO of Finnish Baby Box.

"In the beginning, the baby box was a means to support especially poor families and ensure that mothers were included in the national healthcare system."

All Finnish families are entitled to a free baby box that contains approximately 50 childrearing items, such as clothes, hygiene products and sleeping items. The box itself is designed to be used as a safe baby bed.

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Image source, Leena Karppinen
Image caption,
Both Leena Karppinen's son and daughter received baby boxes with supplies

Leena Karppinen, PR coordinator at Helsinki Marketing, and resident of Finland's capital, used one for her son.

"Finnish babies nap outside - even during the winter. Proper clothing is essential and in the baby box there is always a blanket and winter outfit for the newborns.

"My son loved to sleep outdoors, and only outdoors, as a baby and so we went out strolling even though it was -23C."

3. Santa, sleighs and beavers

Image source, SantaPark
Image caption,
Santa in his home town of Rovaniemi, Finland

Some claim the real home of Santa is in Finland's Lapland, rather than the North Pole.

"The home cavern of Santa Claus, SantaPark, is located in Rovaniemi. It is a Christmas-themed park 50m below the Arctic Circle," says Saila Wilhelmsson, marketing manager at SantaPark, and representative of the "real" Santa.

"The Laplanders got the idea for the sledge by following the activities of the beaver when building its winter nest called a lodge," she adds.

"The beaver holds onto large bunches of aspen twigs used to build the lodge and lies on its back while another beaver pulls it along. The sleigh is made with the same old methods as the sledge."

4. 70 days of light

Image source, Visit Finland
Image caption,
"We are calm and sometimes even silent in the winter," says Heli Jimenez from Visit Finland

"I love the contrasts and extremes of this country," says Heli Jimenez, Director, Head of Marketing for Visit Finland. "Nature is different depending on the season. And all this affects the people. We are calm, sometimes even silent in the winter, but in the summertime the whole country changes."

In winter there isn't much sunlight and in some parts of the country the sun doesn't rise above the horizon for 52 days.

While in summer Heli says days can be everlasting as there are some areas where the sun doesn't set for 70 days.

5. "We love our coffee"

Image source, Niilo Simojoki
Image caption,
Journalist Niilo Simojoki says Finns are world record coffee drinkers

"It is perhaps slightly odd that we love our coffee as it does not actually grow in this part of the world," explains journalist Niilo Simojoki, who splits his time between his office in Helsinki and his home in the Tuusula countryside.

"We are world record holders in coffee consumption per capita. If someone pays you a visit, you're supposed to make some coffee - no question about it!

"A lot of offices are observing a 'coffee pause' today in honour of Finland's one hundredth birthday."

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