Epiphany 2017 and 2018
Epiphany is celebrated both in and out of church in Finland. The feast comes on January 6th, the traditional date of several events of importance to the Christian faith: the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Bethlehem, the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, and the marriage celebration Jesus attended in the town of Cana.
January 6th is also 12 days after December 25th. It is the final of the 12 days of Christmas mentioned in the popular song by that name. Finally, Epiphany is the official start of the Carnival season, which ends with the first day of Lent on Ash Wednesday.
The word for Epiphany in Finnish is “loppiainen,” which literally means “end of Christmas.” However, Finns actually continue to celebrate the Christmas season up to January 13th, which is the last day of Scandinavia’s traditional “20 days of Christmas.” January 13th is also Saint Canute’s Day. Interestingly, Finland changed the date of Epiphany in 1971 to the first Saturday on or following January 6th but then restored the date to January 6th itself in 1991.
In Finland, Epiphany is celebrated by attending special church services, most of them attending an Evangelical Lutheran Church. White is the official liturgical colour for the day, and it is traditional for six lit candles to be put on the altar. In Finland, the message will typically focus on the Wise Men’s visit rather than Jesus’ baptism or the marriage in Cana. It will also usually have a theme regarding Jesus’ revelation to the world and missionary work since the Three Wise Men were Gentiles.
Tourists in western Finland will find that most shops are closed for Epiphany, while in Eastern Finland, they are open to take advantage of the tourist rush. Throughout Finland, public transport will run on reduced schedules, so travelers need to be aware and plan ahead.
Things to do in Finland for Epiphany include:
- Attend Epiphany services in a Finnish church. See if you can get an interpreter to attend with you, of if you are practicing Finnish, listen closely and bring a notebook. But also notice the white vestures, the six candles on the altar, and sound of Finnish music. If you attend a historic or large church building, learn of its history and architecture as well.
- Enjoy a Finnish Epiphany meal. Pea soup, cabbage rolls, chicken stew, injera flat bread, sweet honey-yeast bread, lentil soup, and yataklete kilkil, a kind of vegetable soup, may all be on the menu at a local restaurant. But especially be sure to pick up some piparkakut, star-shaped gingerbread cookies, at a local bakery. It is traditional to make a wish, break the cookie in your palm, and count the pieces. If it broke in three piece, your wish is sure to come true.
- Visit Urho Kekkonen National Park in far-north Lapland. You can see the dazzling northern lights, go skiing, hike through the pristine arctic wilderness, and look for Santa Claus, for he is thought by the Finns to live here instead of at the North Pole.
Touring Finland for Epiphany will introduce you to time-honored traditions of the Christian faith, to Finnish cuisine, and to Finland’s amazing landscapes.