Unikeonpäivä: Sleepy Head Day in Finland

This Sunday, as every 27th of July, is the National Sleepy Head Day in Finland (Unikeonpäivä), which means that the last sleeping family member must be woken up with water.

How the water gets to the person or how the person gets to the water is a matter of choice. The victims of the Unikeonpäivä find themselves awakened by a bucket of water poured over their heads or by being carried over to a river, sea or lake and thrown in.

A woman sleeping
You better set your alarm on on Sleepy Head Day. Source (CC: by-sa)

How the Sleepy Head Day started in Finland

According to the tradition, in the Middle Ages 6 Christians slept in a cave for 200 years. They had ended up there hiding from a roman emperor.

It appears that this tradition was imported to Finland in the 6th century A.C. The idea is that if the Finns oversleep on that day, they’ll might end up sleeping 200 years as those Christians did.

Another popular belief is that if it rains on Sleepy Head Day, it will rain the following 7 weeks.

Sleepy Head Day in Naantali

Naantali, the Finnish town near Turku, which most known attraction is the Moominworld (a theme park about The Moomins), has another tradition for Unikeonpäivä.

They get up extra-early on July 27th and pick a well-known person from Naantali that will be taken out of their bed and home and will be thrown into the water.

One of the best country-wide known Unikekos was thrown into the water on 2004. That day, the Unikeko was taken out of bed, rolled up in his sheets by previous Unikekos, and carried by a retinue to the water, where he was thrown into. When the Unikeko got out of the water, people could see that he was the husband of the Finnish President Tarja Halonen, a law teacher at the University of Joensuu.

Naantali has the best Sleepy Head Day in the country.

Have you experienced a Sleepy Head Day in Finland? Are you a late sleeper?

Tove 100 – an homage to Moomin’s author

This year is the 100 anniversary of the birth of one of the most popular and celebrated Finnish authors: Tove Jansson, creator of those white hippo-like creatures, the Moomins (in Finnish language: muumi).

This year, therefore, there are plenty of events to remember Tove Jansson and to pay an homage to her and her contribution to Finnish literature, design and illustration. One of her creations surpasses all the others: The beloved Moomins.

Illustration about Tove Jansson with ther Moomins
Illutration of Tove Jansson with her Moomins. Source (CC: by)

The Moomins

If you don’t know the Moomins (or moomintrolls, as they’re also called) yet, they are a family of hippo-like creatures and their friends. Their adventures have appeared in books, comics, movies and even an animated TV series.

They look like this:

Moomin chairs
The Moomin characters, chair version. Source (CC: by-sa)

Tove 100

The homage to the 100th anniversary of Tove Jansson’s birth is called Tove 100. A number of special events all around the globe are happening for this anniversary. All of them can be found on the official website Tove100.com. You can search for events in your country there. Talking about English speaking countries, there are plenty of events about Tove Jansson and the Moomins in London. Check out that link.

I will nonetheless tell you about the most interesting events of them all, for me.

Little My tote bag
Little My always had it clear. Source (CC: by-sa)

The main event and maybe the most important of them all happens in Helsinki. It is the Atheneum museum exposition (on the street Kaivokatu 2), called “Tove Jansson art exhibition” that is currently on and will end on September 7th 2014. After that date the collection will move to Japan, where Tove Jansson is very popular too.

There is currently a second exhibition worth visiting for all Moomin-fans: The Moomin Arabia Mug exhibition. Arabia is one of the flagship design companies of Finland and the exposition will go on until August 31st. The street is Hämeentie 135, where the Arabia museum is located, and the exhibition is called “Mugs with history”.

Moomin mug
Coffee tastes better served in a Moomin mug.

More homages to Tove Jansson

Finally, all of Finland celebrates Tove with two more things.

The first one is that the Katajanokka park, next to the Orthodox cathedral of Helsinki, will change its name to “Tove Jansson Park”. The Katajanokka district is where she lived in Helsinki.

The second is this series of stamps that the Post Office of Finland (Posti) has introduced this year:

Tove Jansson Stamps

Have you been or will you go to any of the Tove 100 events? What’s the Tove Jansson creation that you like or that it inspires you most?

A hose: Always next to every Finnish toilet

It’s been a long time since I wanted to write about the hose that exists next to each Finnish toilet. Something like this:

A hose on a Finnish bathroom
A strange apparatus to have in a bathroom: A hose.

The first time I arrived in Finland, many years ago, I was suprised by this strange apparatus. I didn’t have time to test it this first day, to find out what was it for, and I ignored it on the following days, but always with a veiled suspicion: I was afraid to know.

And, after testing it, I still have my doubts.

There are several theories of its use. From it being the substitute of the bidet, to its use as a tool for an easy bathroom cleaning operation (this one is mine and I’d like to think it is used for that).

The shower hose near the toilet
Threatening the WC

As I said I use it mainly for cleaning the entire bathroom. The after-shaving operation leaves the sink clean, and the floors are clean in an instant thanks to this hose or showerhead. You can also clean the toilet with it, but let’s not get into details here.

The Finnish toilet hose or shower
All the power in your hands

If you want to activate this Finnish WC shower or hose, you have to open the water from the sink and press the button that the hose has: The water stream starts coming out of the hose with good water pressure. Personally I think the button-activated mechanism supports everyone elses’ theory of the toilet shower as a substitute of the bidet, but I prefer not to adopt this version.

I have seen this hose not only in private toilets – at friends’ houses – but also next to toilets in bars, restaurants, transport stations, and other places, although not in each and every one of them.

What’s your experience with the Finnish toilet hose? It is definitely one of the things that surprise foreigners in Finland. Its use, if you want to know for sure, is this one and I will keep ignoring it.

Wife Carrying World Championship in Finland

“Someone’s got to invent it, and it was the Finns”. A sentence that is maybe being said too often, regarding the number of eccentric summer championships that happen in Finland (which I think is one of the best things of the Finnish summer). We talk today about the Wife Carrying World Championship in Finland.

Finland had a group of runners called “The Flying Finns”, that dominated the middle and long distance tournaments in the 1920s (wiki), but not even they came up with this idea: A run that features carrying your wife (Eukonkanto, in Finnish).

Wife Carrying in Finland
Running carrying the wife. Source: All Hands Volunteers Photobank.

The origin of the Wife Carrying Race

The wife carrying run has a history, although a cloudy one since there are three theories. The first one is that there was a thief called Rosvo-Ronkainen who, along with his henchmen, used to enter little villages running, robbing them of food and women (still running, of course). The second theory says that long ago the young rural Finns tended to go to nearby villages and “steal” the women of the locals, marrying them soon afterwards. The last theory talks again of Rosvo-Ronkainen and his henchmen, who used to train running while carrying heavy sacks, a practice that with time evolved into this sport.

Although the Wife Carrying Championship that happens in Finland every year can be seen as a joke, the contenders really take it seriously (as if they were the Flying Finns themselves). The location of this race within Finland is in Sonkajärvi (map), and it has been going on since 1992 (and in 1997 it became a “World Championship”).

Rules of the Wife Carrying World Championship

Some of the most interesting rules are:

  • The official distance to run is 253.5 meters, with parts of gravel, grass and sand.
  • There must be two obstacles and a little water pool 1 meter deep.
  • The female part of the couple can be anyone, but she has to be older than 17 years and must wear a helmet.
  • The woman’s weight must be over 49 kilograms. If she weighs less, she should carry a backpack with weight until both, women and bag, weight at least 49.
  • If the woman falls, she should get in position again on the man’s back or arms.
  • The races feature 2 couples each time, so they can compete between each other as well.
  • There is only one category and the winner is the fastest.
  • The fee for participating is around 50€.
  • There is a second wife carrying race: Three men have to carry one woman in turns, and they must drink “the Wife Carrying official drink”. There are special prices for the funniest team, the best disguises and the strongest man.
  • There is another “sprint” edition: 100 meters, one water pool and 5 to 10 couples, passing 3 each time.

The winning couple of the Wife Carrying World Championship will win the equivalent of the female’s weight in beer.

In this video you can see the Wife Carrying Championship is in all its splendor:

Estonia and Finland are tied on the highest rank of the podium. Estonia used to dominate this race – the reason why the predominant style of wife carrying is the “Estonian Style”: The woman hangs upside down with the legs crossed around the man’s neck, and holding onto his waist – although in the last years the Finns caught up, especially the couple formed by Taisto Miettinen and Kristiina Haapanen: Taisto is the eldest race winner – 45 years old -, he’s a lawyer, and he has won 10 medals in this competition. A total man.

What do you think, would you ever participate in this Wife Carrying World Championship? This year’s edition, 2014, will happen in Sonkajärvi, on the 4th and 5th of July.

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