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News, 2/2/2018

J.L.Runeberg's Day

Statue of Runeberg

Every 5th of February Finland celebrates the anniversary of Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804-1877), the National poet of Finland, by raising the flags and eating a delicious Runeberg's torte.

Runeberg was born in a Swedish-speaking family in Jakobstad. He studied first in the cities of Vaasa and Oulu, later on at the Imperial Academy of Turku, where he befriended Johan Vilhelm Snellman and Zacharias Topelius. His studies concentrated mainly on the classical languages of Latin and Greek. From 1837 onwards he lived in Porvoo, where he served as professor of Latin literature in the Gymnasium of Porvoo.

Runeberg wrote in Swedish and many of his poems deal with life in rural Finland but he is best known for The Tales of Ensign Stål. It is considered the greatest Finnish epic poem outside the native Kalevala tradition and contains tales of the Finnish War of 1808–09 with Russia. In the war, Sweden lost Finland, which became a Grand Duchy in the Russian empire. The poem, which is composed episodically, emphasizes the common humanity of all sides in the conflict, while principally lauding the heroism of the Finns. The first chapter of the poem, Vårt Land (Finnish: Maamme, “our land”), became the national anthem of Finland, with music by the composer Fredrik Pacius.

The Runeberg's torte or Runebergintorttu in Finnish is a cylindrical pastry flavored with almonds and decorated with raspberry jam in a white or pink sugar ring. The pastry got its name as the poet was used to have them for breakfast.  According to the legend poet's wife Fredrika created the pastry and Ludvig enjoyed the torte with punsch on every breakfast.  Runeberg's tortes are typically eaten only in Finland and are generally available from the beginning of January until Runeberg's birthday on February 5.

There is a statue of Johan Ludwig Runeberg designed by his son Walter Runeberg located on Esplanadi in the heart of Helsinki

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Updated 2/2/2018

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