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Finland declares Christmas Peace amid security concerns

Finland’s oldest city, Turku, declared the Christmas Peace at noon Saturday in the midst of security concerns after last Monday's deadly truck attack in Berlin. The 700 year-old tradition signals the official start of Christmas celebrations in Finland.

Joulurauhan julistuksen luki Turun kaupungin protokollapäällikkö Mika Akkanen.
Turku protocol chief Mika Akkanen reads from the parchmant declaring the peace on Christmas Eve. Image: Joulurauhan julistus vuonna 2015.

Shortly after the bells of the Turku Cathedral tolled at mid-day, Turku protocol chief Mika Akkanen read the ancient parchment in Finnish and Swedish from the balcony of Brinkkala House overlooking Turku market square. 

Following the reading, the assembled crowd sang the Finnish national anthem, also in Finnish and Swedish. The Finnish Navy Band then struck up the March of the Pori Regmient, the honorary march of the Finnish Defence Forces and the President of Finland.

This year however, police said that they would increase security for the event in the wake of last Monday’s attack on a Christmas market in Berlin. German officials reported that 11 people were killed and nearly 50 others were injured, one of them a Finnish citizen.

A massive audience took advantage of the unseasonably mild conditions to follow the ceremony first hand. However no untoward incidents were reported.

Good behaviour expected for Christmas

Centrally located, Turku Market Square is the epicenter of this annual throwback to the pomp and ceremony of medieval times, although other towns have since taken to staging similar Christmas ceremonies.

The roots of the custom date back to the 14th century, when a Swedish official introduced a law to ensure that subjects wouldn't get too rowdy during the festivities.

Thus was born the practice of declaring the Christmas Peace, to signal the expectation of greater decorum during the religious observance.

Yle began televising the declaration locally in 1983 and from 1986, the ceremony was also broadcast in Sweden. Nowadays, a global audience can follow the declaration live online on Yle Areena.

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