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Police: An exceptionally peaceful May Day in Finland

This year, the May Day flag was dedicated to those on the frontline in the battle against coronavirus.

Vappupäivän juhlijoita Helsingin Kaivopuistossa Ullanlinnanmäellä 1. toukokuuta.
May Day celebrations were relatively low key this year due to social distancing restrictions, Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

With Finland celebrating a Virtual Vappu this year, May Day celebrations across the country have been exceptionally calm, police said.

"This has been the most peaceful May Day in my 40-year-long career in the police. The citizens' level of compliance with the instructions and recommendations has been a pleasant surprise," said Chief Superintendent Ari Järvenpää of the National Police Board.

In light of the epidemic situation in Finland, the Ministry of the Interior and the police had issued strict restrictions on gatherings and instead urged citizens to attend a host of virtual events and live streams.

Police appreciated the widespread adherence to the restrictions and said they encountered only a few cases where small gatherings of young people had to be dispersed.

The number of emergency calls was significantly lower from May Day last year, police revealed.

"We hope that people will have the patience to keep following the restrictions and recommendations despite the nice weather," Järvenpää added.

May Day celebrations are usually particularly colourful in the city of Tampere where first-year technology students or 'teekkarit' are dipped into the cold rapids of the Tammerkoski rapids.

This year, the situation was relatively calm, chief inspector Tero Halmela of the Central Finland Police Department.

"There has been very little traffic in the center of Tampere. People have hardly come to the centre at all because all the outlets are closed. It has been overall very calm," Halmela said,

Police said there were slightly more noise complaints in residences than usual this year, with everyone celebrating at home.

May Day traditions go online

Owing to the coronavirus epidemic, traditional May Day "Vappu" celebrations such as speeches, parties and parades were cancelled throughout Finland. But a number of virtual events were organised to encourage people to move their celebrations online.

This included a live-streamed capping of the Havis Amanda statue on May Day eve -- a decades-old tradition, virtual concerts and more.

Traditional speeches along with May Day greetings and performances were broadcast live from the Yle premises in Helsinki.

It’s also May Day tradition in Finland for each political party to hold a speech outlining their key aims and agenda. This year, political parties including Green Party, Left Alliance, Finns Party and SDP took to Facebook and Youtube to host live events.

May Day flag dedicated to healthcare workers

May Day is one of the 20-odd flag days observed in Finland each year. This year, the May Day flag was dedicated to those working on the frontline in the battle against coronavirus, the interior ministry announced in a bulletin.

This includes healthcare and care home workers, police officers, members of the border guard, teachers, public transport workers, cleaners, supermarket cashiers and many other professions.

"On Labour Day, we celebrate Finnish workers and spring. During the coronavirus epidemic, it is important to thank all those who keep the vital functions of society up and running despite the emergency conditions. Many of them do not have the opportunity to telework and many have had to reorganise their work completely and very quickly" Minister of the Interior, Maria Ohisalo, said.

Flags were raised at 8am and are to be lowered at 9pm.

Watch: "Silent People" celebrate May Day

Artist, dancer and choreographer Reijo Kela’s famous peat-headed creations called 'Silent People' in Suomussalmi, in the Kainuu region got a May Day makeover with hundreds of colourful balloons. The work has been on display in municipality's Käpylä field since the autumn of 1994.

The artist attached 500 helium balloons on the Silent People to mark the quiet May Day celebrations, making for a surreal sight.

Story continues after video:

Video: median oletuskuva, musta laatikko
Tuhatpäisestä Hiljaisesta kansasta puolet sai heliumilmapallot vapun kunniaksi. Video: Timo Sihvonen / Yle

May Day celebrations: Quarantine Edition

Yle readers from across the country shared snapshots of their socially-distant May Day celebrations this year. You can view them below (captions in Finnish).


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