April 9 is Mikael Agricola’s Day & ‘Finnish Language Day’

Yes, it’s another flag day in Finland. April 9th is not just the anniversary of Mikael Agricola’s death; it is also when Finn’s celebrate Suomen kielen päivä. Now I know if you drag this text into your favourite translator it will give you an answer something like this: Finnish language day. That is a little misleading! Mikael Agricola is recognized as the father of written Finnish language.

Taken today 9.4.2013 *

Wikipedia has a quite nice page in English that discusses his achievements. By all accounts he was a gifted student, particularly when it came to languages.

If you visit the Mikael Agricola Foundation page there is a neat summary of his achievements under the Elämä page. There is some small confusion over his birth date, some references record it as 1507 while other texts rely on 1510 as his birth year. His sudden death in April of 1557 is now the date used to celebrate not just his life, but also his achievements in recording the Finnish language.

Even though he spent time studying in Germany, he was more than just a student of languages. He was a member of the clergy and was appointed as Bishop in Turku (back when Turku was the Finnish capital. He was a diplomatic as well, and his untimely death occurred on the return trip from a peacekeeping mission with Russia.

When Agricola’s first writings were published, there was no standard Finnish written text nor was the Bible readily available to the general population. Agricola solved this dilemma by publishing a primer and catechism as one and the same. I’ve done some digging, and if you’re interested in reading the very first Finnish language book ever published, check this out! While the spelling has evolved over time, if you say the words phonetically it’s definitely the same language I muddle along with everyday!

A listing of his works is available here, and there is a detailed listing of additional links here. Unfortunately the links are in Finnish only. I will keep hunting and try to add additional English information as and when I find it.

If you are looking around Helsinki for Mikael Agricola references, one of the most obvious choices would be the Mikael Agricola church situated a few blocks from the city centre. Did you know that there was a design competition and the selection committee were unhappy with the 56 designs submitted (too much ‘functionalism’) and so a second round was instigated with the brief to follow ‘traditional church forms’. The winning design by Lars Sonck was dedicated in 1935. You can find the church here:

Another address to check out could be Agricolankatu (Agricola’s street) in Kallio:

Last yet not least there stands a statue inside the Helsinki Lutheran Cathedral:

Mikael Agricola in the Helsinki Lutheran Cathedral
(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

* I love flag days! It’s wonderful to see flags flying from every building and in every yard. I can’t help myself, I just have to take a picture. This one was taken as I arrived for class this afternoon at Liiketalousopisto-Helmi.

March 19 is Minna Canth’s Day

March 19th: An official flag day in Finland for Minna Canth and Social Equality

Were you wandering the streets of Helsinki today? Or any part of Finland for that matter? Did you notice the number of Finnish flags flying? Any yard that boasts a flag pole would have been flying the national flag. Today the flags were flying for two reasons: the anniversary of Minna Canth‘s birth in 1844 and celebration of social equality in Finland.

This flag day has only been official since 2007, previously it was at the discretion of building managers and owners whether they would hoist the flag or not. What’s more, Minna Canth was the first woman to be awarded an official flag day. This year there appears to be 19 official days throughout the year when the flag should be flown.

Minna Canth is remembered for her writing and social activism. It is no accident that the Finnish Day for Equality falls on her birthday. She was an early advocate in improving the position of the poor and women. A widow, raising seven children on her own, she also managed the family drapery shop and pursued a career in writing.

Her writing was not limited to one format: she was a journalist, short story writer and a playwright. Her plays continue to be performed today. In the latter part of her life she established her own periodical and edited that also. It was a short-lived venture although it did introduce new ideas to the Finnish populace.

While you may not find so many monuments in and around Helsinki, you will find Minna Canth street in Töölö:

If you travel further afield to the city of Kuopio you will find much more as the greater part of her life was spent living in this beautiful lakeside city.

Minna Canth statue in Kuopio, decorated for summer
(Image Credit:Kuopion Matkailupalvelu Oy )

Lastly an oft published picture of the writer herself:

Minna Canth, writer and champion of social change.
(Image Credit YLE)

On a totally personal note, it’s my mother-in-laws birthday today also!