For the past month the community has been celebrating Heikinpäivä. If you are unfamiliar with this celebration, Heikinpäivä is a celebration of mid-winter and the Finnish-American heritage of Hancock and the Copper Country. The theme of the celebration stems from the Finnish saying “Karhu kylkeänsä kääntää,” which means “the bear rolls over,” signifying the middle of winter. The celebration first started in 1999.
This past Saturday, downtown Hancock hosted the Heikinpäivä parade. The community was able to come out and enjoy Finnish culture with music, history, crafts, foods, games, and the attire to match the festivities. During the parade, the community got to see and learn about Finnish mythical characters like Heikki Lunta, Väinämöinen, St. Henrik, and Lemminkäinen. If you’d like to learn more about these characters you can read about them at https://www.finlandia.edu/heikinpaiva/. Our very own Michigan Tech Pep Band also marched in the parade as part of the celebration.
After the parade the community was able to participate in multiple activities. The first was the Karhunpeijäiset (Bear Spiral Dance), which is related to the tradition of a bear hunt. Shortly after, there was a Wife Carrying Contest, which is an event that is held in Finland. The contest consists of one person carrying another person over their shoulder and completing tasks that would happen in a typical Finnish-American home as quickly as they can. There were also events like the polar plunge, Iltamat, which is an evening party with dancing and food, and Tori markets.
The Lode had a chance to talk to a few Michigan Tech students during the parade to see why they decided to come to the event and what they enjoyed about it. One of the students stated, “I came to the parade last year and loved seeing all the Finnish activities I didn’t know about and the outfits. I wanted to come back this year and maybe participate in some as well.” If you didn’t get a chance to participate in the festival this year, there will be an opportunity next year. You can follow Heikinpäivä on Facebook to keep up with all the events and times for 2025.