Hyvää itsenäisyyspäivää! Glad självständighetsdag!

Edited by Anna Popper

Finland had been under Swedish rule since 1154 and from 1809 under the Russian Empire, annexed from Sweden. In the wake of the Russian Revolution in 1917 and the setbacks faced in the First World War, a fervent desire for autonomy gained momentum in Finland. The turning point came on the 6thDecember 1917, when the Finnish Parliament officially embraced the Declaration of Independence, formally establishing Finland as a sovereign nation. This pivotal historical moment marked the culmination of a long-standing struggle for self-determination and laid the foundation for an independent Finnish state.

Finland celebrates its Independence Day on 6 December, when the entire country, buildings and streets are adorned with festive lights. As usual, at 6 p.m. sharp, two blue-white candles are lit in the windows of the houses, signifying the national colours of Finland. It serves as a symbol of solidarity and the shared commitment to freedom, independence and unity.

To mark Finland’s Independence Day, the Ambassador of the Republic of Finland, H.E. Mr. Pertti Anttinen and Mrs. Katriina Apajalahti hosted a reception. The event, held at the Residence, was attended by senior officials of the Hungarian government, representatives from cultural, academic life and business sectors, counterparts from twin cities, a significant diplomatic representation, and Finnish nationals.

The festivities commenced with the rendition of the Finnish National Anthem, “Maamme” (Our Land) and the Hungarian Anthem, both musical tributes were performed by a talented cellist.

In his address, Ambassador Pertti Anttinen said:

“Honourable Minister Szalay-Bobrovniczky, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my great pleasure to welcome you to celebrate the 106th Independence Day of Finland with us. I am particularly glad that Defence Minister Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky has agreed to join us today. We did our best to bring the typical Finnish winter weather with snow to Budapest for this special occasion and we almost succeeded.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Unfortunately, the security situation in Europe and globally has continued to worsen this year.Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine in February 2022 profoundly shook the existing security architecture in Europe. And more recently, the resurfacing of violence and civilian suffering in Israel and Gaza has drawn our attention once again to the fragility of peace in the Middle East.

After almost two years, the Russian war machine is still in Ukraine, inflicting indiscriminate suffering, damage and loss of lives. Russia’s aggression, which violates international law and the UN Charter, also has global consequences, such us jeopardizing global food security. Uncertainty and unpredictability have become permanent challenges to European security.

Following the parliamentary elections in April, our new government renewed Finland’s strong commitment to support Ukraine by all means and as long as it takes. Finland has recently delivered the 20th national aid package of weapons and military equipment, including heavy weapons, to Ukraine. When our development and humanitarian assistance are added together, Finland has given over 2,2 billion euros in aid to Ukraine.

As I stated in my speech last year, Finland’s application for NATO membership was a reaction to the fundamental change in the security environment in Europe.

Tisztelt Miniszter úr, may I take this opportunity to thank your Government’s and your personal support for the Finnish NATO-membership, which became a reality on 4th April this year. I also wish to extend my heartfelt thanks to all my colleagues from the embassies of NATO-member countries. Your support and encouragement were invaluable throughout the entire process.

As a NATO member, Finland, with its strong military capabilities – relative to our size of course – and its commitment to defence and resilience, will be a security provider whose membership will further strengthen the Alliance. I am confident that Sweden will follow us soon. As our president Mr. Sauli Niinistö said, Finland’s NATO membership is not complete without Sweden.

Furthermore, let me emphasize the importance Finland attaches to our membership in the European Union. A strong and united EU is ever more important in today’s world. Working closely together we are in a better position to overcome current security and economic challenges, as well as threats posed by climate change. Next year marks the 20th anniversary of Hungary’s membership in the EU. Finland is thus looking forward to Hungary’s successful EU Council Presidency of the latter half of 2024.

Dear Friends,

Let me turn to our bilateral relations. I am glad to take note that several rounds of consultations between senior Finnish and Hungarian officials have taken place this year, namely Political Consultations in April, consultations on European Affairs in June and Defence Policy Consultations in September. Finnish NATO-membership also adds a new layer in our bilateral relations, with new potential cooperation areas, for example, in the defence industry. We therefore welcome Hungary’s decision to re-open the Office of the Defence Attaché in Helsinki.

In the field of trade, the value of our bilateral trade with Hungary last year was around 760 million EUR and around 70 Finnish companies are active in Hungary.

The people-to-people contacts between our two countries date a long way back and are very intensive in a number of fields. I have had a pleasure to meet the active friendship societies in many parts of the country; to participate in events celebrating twin city arrangements between municipalities in Hungary and Finland and to meet representatives of the Lutheran Church actively promoting the friendship parish relations between our two countries.

During the past year, a number of seminars, workshops and cultural events were organised to promote Finland in Hungary, many of them in cooperation with the Finnish Institute in Hungary, FinnAgora. We therefore thank the FinnAgora colleagues for the excellent and continued cooperation. And finally, I take this opportunity to thank the whole hardworking Embassy staff for the successful year 2023.

Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of the entire Embassy staff, I wish to thank you again warmly for coming to celebrate with us.

May I now propose a toast to the 106th year of Finland’s Independence and to the warm and long-standing friendship between Finland and Hungary.

Hyvää Itsenäisyyspäivää! Glad Självständighetsdag!

On behalf of the Hungarian Government, Mr. Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky, the Hungarian Minister of Defence addressed the audience and conveyed his sincere congratulations to Finland on the occasion of Independence Day. Emphasising Finland’s achievements and acknowledging the multifaceted cooperation between Finland and Hungary, particularly in the field of defence, underscores the importance of collaboration in maintaining security and stability.

The official part was followed by a reception. The festive ambiance persisted as guests engaged in convivial conversations, embracing the holiday spirit in anticipation of Christmas. Meanwhile, they savoured delightful specialities from the Nordic country in a cosy setting, amplifying the sense of togetherness and the shared experience of the gathering.

Source: Embassy of Finland in Budapest

Photos by the Embassy of Finland and DPA

Visit of Joulupukki, the Finnish Santa Claus in Hungary

Continuing a cherished tradition that has existed for years, Joulupukki, the authentic Finnish Santa Claus, brought joy to Hungarian children again this year. The heart-warming visit was made possible by the invitation of Mikulásgyár Alapítvány (The Santa Factory Foundation), which strives to gather donations from individuals and companies during the Christmas season for distribution to the disadvantaged families. This charity activity started in 2005 and has since evolved into a major movement. Arriving from Rovaniemi, his official hometown in Finnish Lapland, Joulupukki landed in Budapest on a Finnair flight and received a warm and enthusiastic welcome from the children.

Photo by Kandert Szabolcs

This annual event not only delights the children of Hungary, but also serves as a means to promote charitable giving and community support. In Finland and various parts of Europe, Joulupukki is an integral figure in the Christmas tradition, with countless children sending him letters each year.

During his stay in Hungary at the beginning of December, Finnish Santa extended his festive presence to four other cities, forging connections with children and imparting valuable lessons on solidarity and charity. His mission goes beyond spreading joy; it includes raising awareness among both children and adults about the importance of helping those in need. The lessons of compassion and generosity that Joulupukki emphasised are intended to leave a lasting impression on the hearts of young individuals, reinforcing the true spirit of the holiday season.

Through his visit, Joulupukki not only puts smiles on the faces of Hungarian children, but also contributes to fostering a sense of community, kindness, and the importance of extending a helping hand to less fortunate in society – a lesson of responsibility that cannot be instilled in young hearts soon enough.

Source: Mikulásgyár Alapítvány