Finnish-American celebration begins Tuesday in Hancock

On the last Saturday in January, the day is filled with Heikinpäivä events on Quincy Street, including a parade and the wife carry, which involves a couple mimicking traditional Finnish activities as they run through a set course. This year those events take place on Jan. 28. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by Kurt Hauglie)

HANCOCK — The Copper Country, especially Hancock, has a large Finnish-American population, and because of that fact, in 1999, it was decided an event recognizing that heritage should take place.

The city of Hancock has a Finnish Theme Committee, and 18 years ago, members created Heikinpaiva, which used as its impetus St. Henrik’s Day, which is Jan. 19.

Heikki is the vernacular form of Henrik. Paiva is Finnish for day, so Heikinpaiva is Henrik’s Day.

The big day for events takes place during the last Saturday of the month, which marks the end of the first half of winter, recognized by the Finnish sayings, “The bear rolls over onto its other side,” and “Winter’s back is broken.”

According to the Finnish Theme Committee, about 40 percent of Hancock residents claim some measure of Finnish ancestry.

Over the years of Heikinpaiva the number of events has grown, most of them recognizing some aspect of traditional Finnish culture, including arts and crafts, music and food.

This year the month-long events start Tuesday at the Copper Country Community Arts Center with an exhibit called “Kalevala — Boatlore.” Other events include a film, instrument-making workshops, “squeaky” cheese making, Finnish-hymn singing and a Family Fun Night.