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With statues capped, Finland’s May Day festivities off to peaceful start

On Tuesday evening, merrymakers gathered in downtown Helsinki for the traditional cleaning and capping of the Havis Amanda statue.

Ylioppilaskunnan laulajat esiintyvät Helsingin Ullanlinnanmäellä Kaivopuistossa vappupäivänä.
The YL choir, Helsinki University's all-male ensemble, perform on Wednesday morning. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

Most May Day activities in Helsinki centred on Ullanlinnanmäki, where residents gathered to listen to performances by Helsinki University's YL male choir, the country’s oldest Finnish-language voice ensemble. The programme included speeches, odes to spring and other ditties, closing with a rendition of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius' "Finlandia" hymn, according to tradition.

Student unions are very present during the annual festivities, and head of the Helsinki University student union Kukka Louhimies delivered remarks on Wednesday morning along with Aalto University student union chair Tapio Hautamäki and Sofia Suomalainen, president of Helsinki’s Theatre Academy.

Later in the morning, President Sauli Niinistö and his wife Jenni Haukio received customary bouquets and May Day greetings at their ceremonial residence, the Presidential Palace. The Helsinki University student union and the YL choir also performed for the couple.

Statues capped as part of May Day tradition

On Tuesday evening, merrymakers gathered in downtown Helsinki for the traditional cleaning and capping of the Havis Amanda statue with the white cap worn by secondary school graduates in Finland. Once the statue was crowned at around 6.00pm, other graduates donned their own headgear.

Story continues after photo.

Aalto-yliopiston ylioppilaskunta AVY lakitti Havis Amandan patsaan Helsingin Kauppatorilla vappuaattona 30. huhtikuuta 2019
The Havis Amanda statue in Helsinki's market square after the capping ceremony. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

In Tampere, students gathered for their celebrations at a whale statue in Frenckellin plaza, while their peers in Oulu capped a statue of local poet and academic Mikael Franzén. Student unions in university towns throughout the country mirrored the same tradition in their local communities.

Police: Like a regular weekend

Meanwhile police throughout the country reported a relatively peaceful start to the holiday, which revellers began celebrating on Tuesday. The Helsinki police department described Tuesday’s activities as reminiscent of a regular weekend, with officers responding to calls involving drunk and disorderly behaviour. They also reported several visits to private residences to deal with disturbances.

Alarm centres in southwest Finland and Oulu said that nothing out of the ordinary occurred on Tuesday night. The central Finland police department, which organised a Twitter marathon on Tuesday, said in a statement that officers had responded to a total of 302 calls in the Pirkanmaa region and 106 in the central Finland area during the campaign.

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