Finland to downsize Independence Day gala, honour healthcare workers

The Finnish president and his or her spouse usually greet up to 2,000 guests at the annual gala.

President Sauli Niinistö and his wife Jenni Haukio dance at the Independence Day gala in 2017. Image: Derrick Frilund / Yle

Due to the Covid situation, invitations to this year's Independence Day gala at Helsinki's Presidential Palace on 6 December will be limited to 200 guests, President Sauli Niinistö announced on Wednesday.

Under normal circumstances, the Finnish president and his or her spouse greet up to 2,000 guests at the annual gala, but last year the event was called off entirely due to the epidemic.

At a press briefing about the event, Niinistösaid so-called 'regular guests' will not be invited to the event this year, but a handful of the country's numerous health professionals will be honoured at the celebration instead.

The invitations have not yet been sent, and further information about the guest list is scheduled to be announced next week. Niinistö said that most of the guests have not attended the event previously.

Acknowledging that new Covid-related restrictions could still be imposed in southern Finland, the president said the guest list could end up being further shortened.

He said that Covid passes will not be required of those in attendance, but that the matter depended on the law.

The tradition of the president and spouse greeting each guest with a formal handshake will not be in practice this year, with Niinistö and his wife Jenni Haukio expected to greet guests in other ways. It is still unclear whether the tradition of dancing will be in practice this year, as well.

Normally, the event also pays tribute to the country's war veterans, but this year a separate event will be arranged for that purpose.

Yle's Independence Day broadcasts are traditionally one of the most-watched television events of the year. Two years ago the broadcasts reached around three million people.