Mother’s Day in Finland

Mother and daughter on a day out in Lappeenranta.

The 10th of May means Mother’s Day for most of the world this year (2020), falling on the second Sunday in May. At this time, Finland wishes the world Hyvää äitienpäivää!

How does Finland celebrate Mother’s Day?

Since 1918, Finland has celebrated Mother’s Day. Vilho Reima, a schoolteacher, first introduced it after the Finnish civil war (27th January – 15th May 1918). It was initially adopted to give a special day to windowed mothers and held on the 3rd Sunday instead.

The date changed in 1927 to the current system and has been a formal holiday in Finland as of 1947 when it became an official flag day.

During that week, there are small school celebrations inviting parents for kahvia (coffee) or teeta (tea) and pullaa (buns), also receiving gifts made by their children. That Sunday, it is common to wake your mother with breakfast in bed accompanied by a flower bouquet. These flowers usually include wood anemones which come into bloom around this time each year.

Order of the White Rose of Finland

Additionally, dating back to 1946, the president presents exceptional mothers with First Class Medals of the White Rose with a golden cross as an annual tradition.

Awards are considered by the regional authorities and the ministry for mothers over 40 years of age, nominated by at least 2 municipalities, formal organizations, or associations. They generally have many children, rural homes, and a history of charity work and volunteering. Although not long ago, the criteria were redefined with the age limit being lowered despite most entrants already have grandchildren. Included in the selection are single mothers, those who looked after large families, foster or support mothers, mothers of children with special education needs or disabilities, and caregiver mothers.

Most of the applications come from smaller communities, which recently are fewer, and the ceremony is no longer televised.
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Equality in Finnish society

We briefly touched on gender equality and women’s rights in Finland in other blog posts, but I would like to expand on them in this article.

In 1906, Finland granted full political rights to women, and since then, the responsibilities of the highest positions in government have been shouldered by both genders.

Free maternity and child health clinic services were introduced by law in 1944 for everyone. These services include the Finnish baby box known the world over, given to parents for every baby born in Finland since 1949 but also in exceptional circumstances internationally.

Also, all pupils have had access to free school meals since 1943.

The Valtioneuvosto (Finnish Government) YouTube channel has an excellent video showcasing the advancements in gender equality in Finland, recounting them over the course of more than a century. You can watch it below:

Celebrating Mother’s Day in Finland | Foreigners in Finland
Mother’s Day medal awarded to 35 exemplary mums | YLE Uutiset
Finland: pioneer in gender equality | International Gender Equality Prize