Not a controversy, except for those who love multiculturalism more than Finnish culture.
Saturday marked the beginning of the summer holidays for some 540,000 comprehensive school pupils and 107,000 upper-secondary students in Finland. Before receiving their report cards, most of them joined in to sing the Lutheran hymn ‘Suvivirsi’.
The song, which is traditionally sung at Finnish school graduations and end-of-year ceremonies, was the subject of controversy earlier this year. In March, the Deputy Chancellor of Justice questioned the appropriateness of a using a Christian song at state school ceremonies. The following month – after a heated public debate – the parliamentary Constitutional Law Committee decreed that there was nothing wrong with the practice.
The song is a translation of the seventeenth-century Swedish hymn “Den blomstertid nu kommer” (“Now the time of blossoming arrives”). In Sweden, sometimes only the first verse is sung. It does not include any specifically Christian references, but simply describes the beauty of summer’s arrival.
As pupils at Helsinki’s Katajanokka primary school sang the first three verses of the six-stanza hymn on Saturday, an Yle reporter on the scene says some parents became visibly emotional.
The Evangelic Lutheran and Greek Orthodox churches are state-supported in Finland. However their membership levels have been dropping amid general trends toward secularisation and multi-culturalism. Nearly all schools in Finland are public.