The most romantic day of the year is approaching. But here in Finland, we choose to celebrate the people who help us prepare for first dates and support us through breakups. The ride-or-die besties who know us better than ourselves
Considering that in the Finnish culture, emotions are perhaps less openly expressed and the accepted form of PDA is a hug, it’s unsurprising that chocolates, flowers, lingerie and grand gestures are not included in the Finnish way of celebrating Valentine’s Day. Instead the day is about celebrating friendship. I mean, we have even found a linguistic way to assure that 14th February is not associated with anything romantic, as translated literally from Finnish to English, ‘Ystävänpäivä’ (Valentine’s Day) means ‘Friend’s Day’.
Whether it’s because we’re simply wired in a more introverted way, or because someone in Finland in the 1980s decided to call it a ‘Friend’s Day’, celebrating platonic love on the 14th February sounds like a tradition the rest of the world could learn from. Now, I’m not saying that romance shouldn’t be embraced, but that celebrating the people closest to you – who aren’t your partner or your family – matter too.
Featured on the December - January issue for Vogue Scandinavia. Photo: Isak Berglund Mattson-Mårn
I often think about friendship and my close friends. How have I stumbled upon these particular wonderful humans and they’ve stayed along for the ride? And why is it that we click with some people but then don’t mesh with others? Friendship is fascinating.
“Friends come into your life for different reasons but the mark of a really good friendship is the one where you feel seen, accepted and perhaps even a bit challenged to become a better version of yourself. This is a big deal,” conversation therapist Therese Stahl from Mindling tells me. “And yet, there is no special day where we celebrate our friendships. It makes total sense to expand Valentine's Day into something that goes beyond romantic love. To also include our friendships.”
So, what do we do for Valentine’s Day in Finland? Well, apparently it’s been the second most important day of the year in terms of quantity of cards that have been sent, only second to Christmas. I also remember making Valentine’s Day cards in elementary school and giving them to all of my BFFs. In high school, things turned up a notch and a classic V-day tradition was to wear a huge pink cardboard heart around the neck and each time someone gave a hug, they’d write their name on the heart.
Having moved countries four times in the past few years, I know a thing or two about maintaining friendships and having to start building new ones from the ground up. I’ve also found that, unlike romantic relationships that can make us afraid of losing the one we adore, friendships are often taken for granted. All close relationships require nurturing, and if you think about it; romances may come and go, but real friends are the ones who stick around.
I was thinking about iconic friendships and one of the most long-standing (albeit fictional) one sprung to my mind, shared by Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha. Maybe it’s because I recently rewatched the final episode of And Just Like That… – which I think captured the essence of a true friendship impeccably – but if there’s one life-long silver screen sisterhood that we could take cues from, that’s it.
Someone once told me that the great value of friends lies in the fact that we choose them. Yes, friendship is not always easy and it can be fragile, but what would we do without our people, our ride-or-dies, our rocks who are there throughout this crazy life?
Photo: Johanna Laitinen