Police are stepping up security measures in Turku ahead of Saturday's traditional Declaration of Christmas Peace ceremony, an event that draws thousands of spectators and is broadcast live. Authorities say that their risk analysis has been affected by recent events including Monday's attack on a Christmas market in Berlin.
"Of course police have to take into account these troubling events in Europe, but on the other hand we do not know of any concrete threat against the Declaration of Christmas Peace event," says Tapio Huttunen, Chief of the South-western Finland Police Department.
Huttunen says that people should feel safe attending the Declaration of Christmas Peace as sufficient security measures will be in place.
"It is of course clear that we cannot at this point specify these security measures, but I can say that they are sufficient and necessary," he told Yle on Friday.
Nearly 700 years of tradition
Huttunen declined to say how many officers will be on hand during the ceremony. He stresses that there is no reason to give up on or avoid this ancient tradition in the former Finnish capital.
"I think the Declaration of Christmas Peace is such a long-running tradition in Turku that we should hold onto it. People can safely attend the event without worrying," the police chief says.Historians say that with a few exceptions, the declaration has been read out at noon each Christmas Eve on Turku's Old Great Square since the 1320s. For many Finns, it marks the official beginning of the Christmas festivities. There are similar events in a few other towns.
In Turku, the city's protocol chief appears on the balcony of the Brinkkala Mansion and reads out the declaration from a parchmentThe current wording, which dates back to 1827, is a mix of holiday greetings and a stern warning not to disturb the peace during the holidays. The event also includes music by a Navy brass band.
Yle has broadcast the event on radio since 1935 and on TV since 1983. It has also been broadcast in Sweden and elsewhere. It can be seen beginning at 11.55 am on December 24 via this Yle Areena link.