Specifically Finnish

Finnish society is an egalitarian society. On the basis of a 1995 OECD study, it has been said that Finland has the world's most even income distribution. An average family of four with two providers paid 38% tax in 1998 and spent an average of 2 h per day in front of the TV. Slightly less time is spent in the sauna, but still virtually every Finnish home has a sauna and most Finns regularly enjoy sauna at least once or twice a week. Vappu on the first of May heralds the arrival of spring and is celebrated with marches, congregations, beer, vodka, and of course the wearing of the white high-school graduation caps (ylioppilas). Midsummer is celebrated with a sauna, a meal of new potatoes and other fresh produce, sausages, home-brewed beer, and a bonfire outside. In July, the berry-collecting season starts: first cloudberries, then blueberries, later raspberries and currants, and finally in September lingonberry, cranberry, and crowberry. Mushrooms are collected in large quantities and stored for winter. In August freshwater crayfish are for sale, and in September hunters prepare to shoot elk and deer. Herring is in season in October and a sip of gloggi (mulled wine) precedes the Christmas festivities and replaces the otherwise ubiquitous and unbelievably common cup of coffee (per capita, Finns are the world's greatest coffee consumers). It may come as a surprise that even in winter Finns may have outside barbecues in snow and ice, but winter is the cross-country skiing season, the time to play ice hockey, and go skating or even ice sailing. Most Finns love sport and the country has certainly produced its share of sporting heroes, be it at the summer or the winter Olympics. Paavo Nurmi won nine gold and three silver medals at the Olympic Games for his country and Lasse Viren won both the 5000 and 10,000 m races at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics. Regarded by many as the greatest ski jumper of all time, Matti Nykanen won four Olympic golds and five world championships in the 1980s. In 1995, Finland's ice hockey team became world champions with a win over Sweden in the final, and the whole country celebrated. Finnish architecture, thanks to the pionering designs of Alvar Aalto, enjoys world fame and attracts architecture students from all over the world to Finland. Music plays an important part in the lives of Finns, and the annual Opera Festival, held in the medieval stone castle of Savonlinna, has become an institution. Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) is Finland's greatest composer and his fame, based on seven symphonies, a violin concerto, Finlandia, Valse triste, and other works, overshadows many other Finnish composers of stature. Apart from the opera festival, Finland hosts numerous other music festivals in summer and the combined attendances amount to over one million. Although folk music, characteristic of the different regions of Finland, exists and is performed, the greatest appeal countrywide is a rhythm known as Finnish Tango. Several musicians and singers from the Finnish gypsy community have been very successful in the music business. Not surprisingly, ballroom dancing is a popular pastime for the young and old in Finland.

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