The first printed book written in Finnish appeared in 1543. Beginning in 1960, on the 9th of April, people celebrated Mikael Agricola’s day, which was later included in calendars as Finnish language day as of 1978. This day is also the birthday of famous poet Elias Lönnrot (1802-1884), who created the Finnish national epic Kalevala and also Kanteletar.
Mikael Agricola, the father of written Finnish
Mikael Agricola (originally Olofsson), called the father of written Finnish and Finnish religious history. Mikael adopted the name Agricola meaning farmer or agriculture, while a grammar-school pupil during his days in Viborg. He was recorded to have lived from 1510 – 1557 (although his actual date of birth remains unknown) and was a religiously devoted and accomplished linguist with extensive knowledge of law and medicine. His work translating the bible was significant in shaping the standardized written Finnish language as we know it today.
Interestingly, much about his life remains shrouded in mystery. The language of his home, whether that was Finnish or Swedish, is undetermined, and the identity of his mother lost to time.
Agricola’s Rucouskiria (Rukouskirja or Prayer Book), first printed in 1554, begins with four prefaces in verse form. Here he emphasized the importance of Finnish language for prayer in this simple but effective couplet:
Kyllä se kuulee suomen kielen,/joka ymmärtää kaikkien mielen. (He who understands the minds of all will certainly listen to the Finnish tongue.)
I’ve always loved rhyming couplets, and this is an especially good one, don’t you agree?
Eleven years prior, in 1543, Agricola published the first Finnish book titled Abckiria. The book starts with a poem that encouraged children to read the elementary section, which contained the alphabet and numerals (numbers).
How to celebrate the day
The day can be celebrated by eating lingonberry white chocolate pastries and reading a good book.
|Pikkuhiljaa||Little quiet||Little by little, gradually|
|Sillä sipuli||That's an onion||That is that, that's how it is|
|Helppo nakki||Easy weiner||Piece of cake|
|Vetää herne nenään||Pull a pea to your nose||Get upset, irritated|
|Ei ole kaikki muumit laaksossa||Not all moomins in the valley||A few cards short of a deck, the light's on but no one's home.|
|Kuin kaksi marjaa||Like two berries||Like peas in a pod, similar|
|Homma hanskassa||Job is in the glove||It's in hand, the situation is under control|
|Ei kukaan ole seppä syntyessään||No one is born a blacksmith||Everything takes practice|
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