photo © Discovering Finland
Facts about Finland
The total area of Finland is 338,144 km, making it the 8th largest country in Europe after Russia, Ukraine, France, Spain, Sweden, Norway and Germany. Of this, 10% is water and 69% forest – there are 188,000 lakes in Finland, and 98,050 islands on those lakes.
It is home to 5.4 million people, making it the most sparsely populated country in the European Union. In the past Finns lived mostly in the countryside or in small towns and villages, but today the population is centred more in the urban centres, especially that of the Greater Helsinki region where approximately 1 million live.
Finland has land borders with three countries; with Sweden (614km), with Norway (736km), and with Russia (1,340km). The maximum distance from north to south is 1,157km, and from east to west is 542km. Finland’s coastline is 4,600km long, or 1,100 if inlets are excluded, and there are 81,534 islands dotted along the coast. The largest archipelago in Europe lies off the southwest coast, and the Åland Islands, an autonomous Swedish-speaking province of Finland, are part of this archipelago.
Finns have a deeply ingrained love and respect for nature, which accounts for the fact that there are 475,000 summer cottages in the country, and 35 national parks. Visitors usually notice that both the cities and countryside are litter free – should you drop litter, don’t be surprised if a Finn picks it up and gives it back to you! Finns also love their saunas, there are some 1.8 million of them here, of which approximately 500 are traditional smoke saunas.
In a 2008 survey for The Fund for Peace, Finland was ranked the second most stable country in the world, based on social, economic, political, and military indicators. Finland is currently ranked 1st in the 2009 Legatum Prosperity rating, which is based on economic performance and quality of life!
Finland is officially bilingual, with 92% of the population having Finnish as their first language, and 5.5% of the population Swedish. Approximately 1,700 people in Lapland speak Sami, or Lapp, languages.
Both the Evangelical-Lutheran and Orthdox churches are recognised as official religions of Finland, and are protected under the constitution, with some 82% of Finns belonging to the former and 1% belonging to the latter.
Official public holidays in Finland are established by acts of Parliament, and can be divided into Christian and non-Christian holidays. In addition, all Sundays are public holidays.
January 1 – New Year’s Day
January 6 – The Feast of Epiphany
Moveable Friday – Good Friday
Moveable Sunday – Easter Sunday
Moveable Monday – Easter Monday
May 1 – May Day
Moveable Thursday – Ascension Day
Moveable Sunday – Pentecost (Whit Sunday)
Friday between June 19 and June 25 – Midsummer Eve
Saturday between June 20 and June 26 – Midsummer Day
Saturday between October 31 and November 6 – All Saints’ Day
December 6 – Independence Day
December 24 – Christmas Eve
December 25 – Christmas Day
December 26 – St. Stephen’s Day