Some of you might immediately recognize the reference behind these words and identify them as belonging to the Finnish national anthem Maamme, or Our Land in English. However, are you also familiar with the person behind these words? They were written almost 170 years ago by Swedish-speaking Finn Johan Ludvig Runeberg. Unlike many artists, authors and poets, Runeberg became a treasured national poet already during his lifetime, and his legacy continues in Finland even today.
Runeberg was born on the 5th of February 1804 in a small Swedish speaking town in western Finland. Later on he moved to Åbo to study philosophy at the university, and in 1830 his first poem was published. From 1848 to 1860 he wrote and published The Tales of Ensign Stål that became his masterpiece and a story loved by many Finns. And indeed, the first poem of this collection was nothing less than Maamme.
How to celebrate Runeberg Finnish style?
As for many Finnish festivities, there is no right or wrong way to celebrate the life and achievements of our national poet. The poems by Runeberg are often read aloud at schools and other institutions, so if you feel like doing so, it’s only appropriate! However, there is one remarkable tradition evolved around the 5th of February, namely eating Runeberg’s torte. These sweet, almond and rum flavoured and raspberry jam coated pastries were developed by Runeberg’s affectionate wife, Fredrika. Fredrika prepared these tortes for her husband who had an incredible sweet tooth, and the legend says that since then, Runeberg enjoyed a torte every day for breakfast. Why not give these tasty tortes a try! For a recipe in English, see for example this blog post.