Finland cancels Independence Day ball, asks people to celebrate from sofa instead

Finland will not hold its annual reception this year, as coronavirus restrictions bite and authorities struggle to control the pandemic.

Presidentti Sauli Niinistö ja rouva Jenni Haukio tanssivat Linnan juhlissa itsenäisyyspäivänä 2017. Image: Derrick Frilund / Yle

The event ordinarily entails some 2,000 guests converging on the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, shaking hands with the first couple, President Sauli Niinistö and his wife Jenni Haukio, before dancing and drinking the night away packed tightly in to the compact 1845-constructed official residence.

This year, Niinistö has decided that the traditional programme may be unwise, but the other part of the festivities — households gathered in front of the television — can proceed as normal.

"The reception has traditionally gathered around two thousand Finns at the Presidential Palace. But Independence Day is also celebrated at home, by millions in front of their televisions. Although this year we will not meet in the traditional way at the Presidential Palace, this will by no means diminish the significance of the celebration. We will celebrate Finland and our independence together with all Finns through a new kind of programme," said President Niinistö in a statement.

Yle's live stream will follow events to celebrate Finnish independence on 6 December at the Presidential Palace and across Finland.

The precise format is not yet decided, but the evening programme will include memories of previous receptions and greetings from viewers.

Independence Day broadcasts are traditionally one of the most-watched television events in the Finnish calendar. Last year the broadcasts reached some three million people.