Posted by: Kath Usitalo | January 19, 2012

Happy Heikinpäivä

Hancock Michigan and The Finnish Theme Committee

Finnish people, like those of many other cultures, celebrate name days—nimipäivä (nimi=name) and (päivä=day)—and each day of the year is associated with a given name.

January 19 is Heikinpäivä, which honors all those named Heikki or Henrik, including the first Bishop of Finland, Saint Henrik (he died a legendary death on January 20, 1156).

Heikinpäivä is the traditional halfway mark of winter and comes with Finnish proverbs to address the occasion, including Karhu kääntää kylkeä (The bear rolls over to the other side) and Talven selkä taittuu (Winter’s back breaks).

The Upper Peninsula City of Hancock, in the Keweenaw Peninsula, has embraced a Finnish American heritage that dates to the late 1800s. That was the beginning of an influx of Scandinavian immigrants who came to work in the mines and logging camps, and to farm the terrain that is so similar to that of Finland.

Hancock is the home of Finlandia University, which was established in 1896 as Suomi (Finland) College. The only Finnish college in the U.S. is home to the Finnish American Heritage Center, which hosts art shows and programs and houses the largest Finnish-American archives in the world.

Interestingly, the City of Hancock decided in the 1980s to establish a Finnish Theme Committee to keep alive (revive) its ties to Finland.

Kids get a kick out of kicksled rides and races

Since its founding the committee has launched a number of efforts, from connecting Hancock with a  Sister City in Porvoo, Finland, to installing bilingual street signs and launching Heikinpäiväa midwinter celebration with a Finnish flavor.

Heikinpäivä activities started earlier this week, but Saturday, January 28 is the key day for the winterfest, when there will be kicksled races, a parade, snow volleyball, pond hockey, Polar Bear Dive and the annual wife-carrying contest (it’s a Finn thing).

Indoors there are tori marketplaces, music, and Saturday evening’s Finnish foods buffet.

What a Finn way to spend a weekend.

Related Links:

Gemignani’s Is A Gem

Visitor Info Clicks:

Keweenaw Peninsula

Upper Peninsula Travel

Pure Michigan



  1. […] Happy Heikinpäivä (Great Lakes Gazette) […]

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