Hundreds of Helsinki residents join the Japanese community for a picnic each spring as part of the Cherry Blossom Festival in Roihuvuori's Kirsikkapuisto Park. The community sponsored the planting of about 150 cherry trees and celebrates the Japanese festival of Hanami when they blossom.
Helsinki – Been There

Inside Finland’s bi-polar circle

Photo by Kike del Olmo

Helsinki – Been There Inside Finland’s bi-polar circle

The Finns are known for their melancholic character but, when summer comes, something funny happens. Once a year, the sun is able to melt the Finns a little and a whole city changes.

Kike del Olmo
Kike del Olmo Travel Photographer

The winters in Helsinki can be long. In December, daylight is limited to only five to six hours a day, creating a dark, cold and empty city. This wait makes the sun such a long-awaited treat when summer finally comes around and the days get longer. In summer, the Finns come out of their houses and celebrate the outdoor life in the city. “People change radically according to the season,” says Hernan Ohaco, an Argentine who founded a tango school here. “It’s almost like a bi-polar society.”

During the summer, Helsinki is brimming with activities. Almost constant daylight turns the city into a 24-hour festival: there are food festivals, music festivals, fashion shows. People go outside, sit in the park or on the steps of the Helsinki cathedral. Community centers use public spaces to organize everything from a bicycle show to a fashion show of strange hats to the odd Japanese day in Roihuvuori, where the streets are all named after fairy tales.

The Finns also love to picnic. One of the most noticeable Helsinki summer traditions is the Cherry Blossom picnic in Cherry Tree Park, a park next to the Public Library. The area was named after a small Japanese community that lived in the neighborhood. Now, every year, hundreds of Finns – I see only three or four Japanese – come there for a serious Finno-Japanese picnic dressed as Lolitas, Manga characters or Samurai.

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Helsinki's Samba Carnival is one of the city’s largest free public events, attracting up to 30,000 visitors each summer. More than 1,000 dancers and musicians from seven competing samba schools join the parade, wearing flamboyant costumes and accompanied by fabulous carnival floats. Photo by Mikhail Olykaynen / Alamy

Mikhail Olykaynen

Mikhail Olykaynen

Agency
Alamy

Helsinki's Samba Carnival is one of the city’s largest free public events, attracting up to 30,000 visitors each summer. More than 1,000 dancers and musicians from seven competing samba schools join the parade, wearing flamboyant costumes and accompanied by fabulous carnival floats.

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