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Boxing Day on Saturday is good news for bars and dance halls

December 26 falls on a Saturday this year, sandwiched between two days of good food and family time and a convenient Sunday to recuperate. This is good news for Finland’s nightclub, dance hall and pub owners.

Tanssivia pareja.
Image: Mika Kanerva / Yle

The second and third days of Christmas fall on a weekend this year, and establishments that offer nightlife diversions like dancing or drinking are looking forward to plenty of business.

Restaurants serving food are not so lucky; however, as things tend stay quiet over the holidays. In contrast, the office Christmas party season of early December is the bonanza time for Finland’s restaurateurs, who have otherwise reported waning business all year.

Timo Lappi, Director of the Finnish Hospitality Association MaRa, draws attention to the duality: cash register ring in some places, but not in others.

“The Christmas holidays divide the hospitality field. Everyone thinks it will be a jackpot across the board, but the truth is that nightclubs and pubs will see an influx of people, but hotel and restaurant operators traditionally see business slow down,” he says.

“Single and young people no longer stay very long with distant relatives in their hometowns, so the number of people who are heading out to enjoy the nightlife grows each year,” Lappi says.

Dance halls are back

For decades Finns have flocked to old-time dance halls to celebrate the day after Christmas. Among the older generation, there is even a name for the phenomenon: “tapanintanssit” or St Stephen’s Day dancing. 

Finland’s traditional dance hall nights, with famous schlager singers fronting a live band, have experienced a renaissance of sorts in recent years. This year, thanks to Boxing Day falling on a Saturday, thousands of dance hall evenings are being arranged in hundreds of locations throughout the country.

A community association in Liminka, near the northwest city of Oulu, for example, revived the dance hall tradition in 2010 and close to 500 dancers have participated in their December 26 dance nights every year since.

“Our dance hall can hold up to 800 people, but that makes it pretty hard to dance. Around 500 is just right; it leaves some room to move around, so you don’t have to spin around in place too much,” says Liminka's Matti Kamula.

Foxtrot, waltz and tango

“The idea of bringing back the St Stephen’s Day dance tradition has really caught on in the last few years. The demand is so great that we are basically forced to arrange it. People like to get out and move after two days of Christmas celebration, and dance is the best form of exercise,” he says.

“Our customer base is made up of people that are a mature age, shall we say - between their thirties and pensioner years. They are people who really love to partner dance and travel great distances to do so,” says Kamula.

“We only do traditional dance hall dances. No disco.”

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