President of the Republic, Sauli Niinistö, and his spouse, Jenni Haukio, hosted the Independence Day Reception at the Presidential Palace on Saturday 6 December 2015.
This year's theme was culture. In many ways, this year marks an anniversary of Finnish culture: the 180th anniversary of the Finnish national epic Kalevala, the 150th anniversary of the birth of Jean Sibelius, Akseli Gallén-Kallela and Pekka Halonen, and the 100th anniversary of the birth of Tapio Wirkkala, Toivo Kärki, Olavi Virta and Tapio Rautavaara. The guest list and the reception programme reflected these anniversaries in various ways.
Guests representing the full spectrum of contemporary culture and minority cultures were also invited, including a number of people engaged within culture and in cultural activities at a grass-roots level.
The usual guests of honour included war veterans and members of the Lotta women’s auxiliary, who had been invited in great numbers again. The veterans began shaking hands with the presidential couple at 7 pm with the Jäger March by Sibelius playing in the background. Once all the handshaking was over, the presidential couple had coffee with the veterans.
In keeping with tradition, invitations had been sent to all members of the Government, Members of Parliament and Finnish Members of the European Parliament, as well as senior civil servants and the diplomatic corps accredited to Finland. Other guests included Finns from various sectors of society who have distinguished themselves in one way or another, and people whom the President and his spouse have met during the past year. A total of around 1,800 guests have been invited.
Background music during the handshaking ceremony and dance music later on in the State Hall was be provided by the Guards’ Band under the direction of the Chief Conductor of the Finnish Defence Forces, Lieutenant Colonel Jyrki Koskinen, and the Head of the Guards’ Band, Major Pasi-Heikki Mikkola. Music by Sibelius was be prominent during the handshaking, while Olavi Virta and Toivo Kärki, popular music greats whose anniversaries are celebrated this year, featured a lot during dancing. The Guards’ Band Combo played light dance music during the evening, led by Captain Lassi Ikäheimo and with Aili Ikonen as vocal soloist.
Jukka Perko's band played in the third-floor salon. Their set included jazz arrangements of music by Olavi Virta, Toivo Kärki, Tapio Rautavaara and Unto Mononen.
The traditional buffet included light savoury and sweet refreshments and titbits. The food had been ordered from around Finland, also taking into account the cultural theme and anniversaries.
The Sibelius anniversary was also celebrated in the foyer of the Mariankatu entrance in the form of Sibelius photos by Aho & Soldan.