THE PEOPLE OF EIGHT SEASONS
by Antti Liikkanen, Chief Senior Physician, Member of the Committee of Regions
In Rovaniemi — the Gateway to Lapland — 60,000 people make their home.
In Lapland — the route for Finland and the EU to the Polar Sea and its riches (fish, oil and natural gas) — there are 200,000 people…and 300,000 reindeer!
In Finland — at the northernmost fringe of the European Union — 5 million people make up the nation’s population.
These people are characterized by the "people of eight seasons" concept.
During a period covering 10,000 years, we — as the largest people in the arctic area north of the 60th parallel — have adapted ourselves to live in accordance with a highly diverse and challenging cycle of nature’s seasons. Of the ten million people living in the arctic region of the globe, half are Finns.
The dynamic rotation of nature’s seasons has moulded the culture, commerce and religion of the area into that which we encounter in the people of this region.
I The Frosty Winter
The year begins with powdery snow and the period of ‘polar night’ or ‘polar night frost’: people do their best to endure the long darkness and cold in the quiet left after celebrating the festivities connected with the change of the year.
II The Crusted Snow
This changes, in March and April, into the ‘spring of crusted snow’ which follows Shrove Tuesday. There is an incredible amount of light in the air, whilst the nights are still dark and cold. It’s a time when love is also in the air! — a time for blossoming and fertilization.
III Departure of the Ice
The breakthrough of spring occurs with the departure of the ice: nature starts to awaken, snow can still be found on the ground — but also bare ground, from which the first plants emerge. People are not yet ready to wake up, but reindeer does are busy giving birth!
IV The Midnight Sun
The sun no longer sets with the coming of the light green summer and the emergence of that nuisance, the mosquito, which is intent on enjoying the sample supply of blood they get from the birds, woodland animals — and people. The entire kingdom of nature flourishes in non-stop, round-the-clock ecstasy.
V The Harvest
With the flowering of the willow herb, the time of the harvest arrives, but also the close of the summer holidays—a time of coming down from the intoxication, hangovers, lack of money, and the hint of autumn’s impending end of life.
VI Brilliant Autumn Colours
The period of autumn colours, in all its glory, reminds people of the fact that nature as a whole shall soon be covered by ice and snow. The labours of summer revert to the telling of tales in the winter. Fishing and hunting are over with and father goes looking for work wherever it may be found: in forestry, road-building, factories and centres of population—almost invariably away from home and family.
VII Black Snow
After the period of glorious autumn colours, it snows—and these first downfalls of snow melt with the mild weather: we live in the period named after the buck reindeer which has already sired young deer. The frost following the mild season freezes the melted snow: the supply of food for the reindeer and nature as a whole threatens to end.
VIII The Christmas Period of Polar Night
The final period, polar night, is a time of continuous darkness which provides the opportunity to study the starry skies and northern lights as well as relate the fables already told for thousands of years to the next generation: an interval for rest from the exhaustion caused by the frenetic activities of the summer, by sleeping, eating and reflection. The period of polar night ends in the highpoint of the year, Christmas, a festival of rebirth, light and the giving up of that which is old — offering warm arms to protect us from darkness and the cold, the time to tell once again the classic story of Santa Claus.