Finland's most popular television show began at 6pm on Wednesday as the President Sauli Niinistö and his wife, Jenni Haukio, welcomed nearly 2,000 guests for the annual Independence Day reception. The theme this year is a meeting of the generations, with Finns of all ages on the guest list.
The television broadcast of the reception is almost always the most-watched programme of the year in Finland. Last year it was watched by some 2.6 million people, 50 percent of the population.
The guests of honour this year, as every year, are war veterans and members of the Lotta women's auxiliary which served vital non-combat functions during Finland's wars.
Performing this year is the YL Male Voice Choir, reflecting the presidential couple's desire to "pay tribute to Finnish choir culture", according to their statement. Pop stalwart Katri Helena, tenor Pentti Hietanen and talent show winner Diandra accompany the Guards' Band Combo as the dances get started.
The menu at this year's reception features produce and dishes from every Finnish region, with food prepared partly by catering students from Helsinki and Oulu.
Haukio's dress this year—always a focal point of media attention—is designed by Heidi Karjalainen, a design student at Helsinki's Aalto University.
Even the floral displays this year are Finnish, with all 3,500 flowers at the ball sourced from six gardens in Finland—a 100-year anniversary gift from the Finnish Flower Growers Association.