HELSINKI — Each year, two large scale firework shows are held in Helsinki, the capital of Finland. One is on New Year’s Eve, the other on the Chinese Lunar New Year’s Eve. The Spring Festival celebrated in Finland, highlighted by the Helsinki Temple Fair, adds lively colors, cheerful laughter and harmonious atmosphere to this Nordic country when the long, dark winter prevails.
The annual event becomes now part of the Happy Spring Festival, a universal celebration for Chinese Lunar New Year across the globe. However, the Helsinki Temple Fair has its own course. It was created in 2007 following an agreement reached between Helsinki and Beijing, and has ever since been gaining popularity among local citizens around Helsinki.
Fixed in Local Calendar
The 12th edition of Helsinki Temple Fair kicked off on Thursday evening as the drum beat of the dragon and lion dance gathered hundreds of people downtown. The dragon pilots were a group of Finnish youngsters keen on Kong Fu. The parade then marched to the main promenade in the central shopping district, where an outdoor show was on stage for four hours despite the freezing temperature. The performance was given by Beijing National Orchestra, Long Yun Martial Arts Group and Beijing City Contemporary Dance Company, all arriving in Finland only days before.
Dozens of booths demonstrating Chinese folklores were put up along the promenade. At the booth of Beijing Tourism Committee, people were seen lining up for trying on dramatic costumes, while others were sightseeing Chinese tourism attractions with VR glasses. At the booth of the Finnish food company Atria, visitors queued for the braised pork snacks cooked in Chinese style. One of the chefs said over 2,000 plates were handed out in just four hours. The company recently got the license to export raw pork to China, and became the first time sponsor of the Temple Fair.
Twelve newly carved zodiac ice sculptures were seen placed in various locations, including the railway station square, pedestrian streets, and the commercial centers. On an ice ring at the railway station square, girls from Finnish figure skating clubs danced against the musical background of Chinese theatrical singing. Approaching 18:00 local time, or 00:00 Beijing time, Chinese Ambassador to Finland Chen Li and the Mayor of Helsinki Jan Vapaavuori addressed a thousands-strong audience and led the countdown to the Chinese Lunar New Year.
Synchronized with the New Year bells ringed in Beijing, fireworks were set off at the temple fair venue in Helsinki. Two hours later, a massive firework show was given near the Toolo Bay 500 meters away. Like in previous years, it was estimated that some 40,000 viewers took part in the event on Thursday. As no more than 5,000 Chinese nationals live in the capital city of Finland, the Temple Fair has obviously become an indispensable festival for locals in Helsinki’s winter calendar.
More than Art Shows
Vapaavuori said the celebration used to take place on only one street but the venue extended to the nearby squares this year. In the past 11 years, a temple fair was held and completed in one evening, but this year’s celebration lasted half a month. An event named “Happy Spring Festival – Beijing Week” took place in Helsinki in late January, focusing on startup competitions, technology seminars and business match-making.
For the first time in 12 years, the issues of business, technology and sports, among others, were put into the Spring Festival basket of Helsinki. “Chinese New Year celebration is getting bigger and bigger in Helsinki,” said Vapaavuori. In the Chinese zodiac system, the period of twelve years concludes a cycle. As the Year of Dog arrives, analysts believe that the Spring Festival, originating from China, has gone beyond borders and to some extent has become a cultural event shared by the world.
Ma Wen, deputy inspector of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture, said that the celebration of Spring Festival particularly in Finland has developed in a natural way where the local partners play a key role and the event is broadly accepted by Finns. “Beijing is the only sister city of Helsinki, and Finns regard Chinese people as friends,” said Vapaavuori.