KRISTIN: On November 28th I received a phone call from Jim Kurtti, the director of the Finnish American Heritage Center congratulating me on being selected as this year’s Hankookin Heikki.
What is a Hankookin Heikki I thought?
JIM KURTTI: Hankookin Heikki which translates to the Heikki of Hancock, or the Henry of Hancock has to do with Heikinpaiva.
KRISTIN: I do know what Heikinpaiva is…well kind of!
JIM KURTTI: Heikinpaiva is Henry’s Day or Heikki Day. In Finland every day has a name day. The day Heikinpaiva or Henry’s Day or Henrik’s day is the old traditional midway mark of winter
KRISTIN: In 1999 The Finnish Theme Committee of Hancock created it’s very own Finnish-American Holiday on Heikki’s Day, or Heikinpaiva. A festival during the coldest time of the year, in one of the snowiest parts of the state!
DAVE MAKI: I think the harsher the winter gets the more people want to get out and celebrate it.
JIM KURTTI: So after a couple years of having Heikinpaiva we decided we needed to honor people in the community for the contributions they did for preserving Finnish and Finnish-American life. So we created this name, Hankookin Heikki or Heikki of Hancock, and that person became the Heikki of the Year and their chief role is to be in the Heikinpaiva parade and some years the HH has ridden on a giant kicksled
KRISTIN: A bit beyond the Copper Country is Bruce Crossing, and myself. The Finnish Theme Committee selected me for my work on the documentary, Cooperatively Yours, preserving the Finnish-American history of my community and many others like it.
Now that I know what this honor is, I need some advice on what I need to do that day.
DAVE MAKI: My name is David Maki and I was chosen as HH for the 2014 Heikinpaiva Festival.
Other than dress for the weather which should be a given to anyone connected to FA culture in these parts, I’d say enjoy the moment because it goes by rather quickly. It seems like a corny honor if you will but really its not because there are very few of us in the grand scheme of things who have Finnish heritage and we should take the time to enjoy that and celebrate that and if you get one day where you are THE person who is in charge of that, make the most of it.
JIM KURTTI: The thing about Heikinpaiva and this is my advice to a HH is just about anything goes. It’s an opportunity for people to just express their FA heritage or even if it’s not their own heritage but just to celebrate the Finnish-American heritage that is so lively and part of the U.P.
KRISTIN: So how do I make the most of it? My first plan is to rig my giant kicksled with Go-Pros to capture the festivities of course. And then there is a Polar Bear Dive after the parade…
JIM KURTTI: You could be the first HH to do the polar bear dive!
KRISTIN: There’s a good chance! I hope to see you all at Heikinpaiva on January 27th! I’ll be the one wearing a crown, video camera in hand. For My Finnish-American Life, I’m Kristin Ojaniemi.
(some portions of full text cut out of video for time!)
Why this blog? Why now?
When I was about 4 years old my older cousin of two years told me I was an American. He must have learned it that day in school. Being a good older cousin he taught me everything he learned therefore I learned to read, write, multiply and tie my shoes before most my age. So here we are, sitting on the bottom bench in the sauna one evening and he tells me I am an American. I disagreed. I told him I was a Finlander. Many years later I realize we were both right.
I am a Finnish-American.
The idea for this blog came to me halfway through producing my latest documentary “Co-operatively Yours”, as I was planning my trip to Finland to interview historians on Finnish-American cooperatives. At first I wanted to produce a short film about my personal experience being a Finnish-American, what that means and what I was currently learning about my heritage mixed in with my first trip to Finland and Finland’s centennial. I wasn’t sure how to go about creating one storyline with all those ideas. Then it dawned on me to create a series of short videos instead. Then I didn’t have time to start it. Until now.
My name is Kristin Ojaniemi. My great-grandparents immigrated to the United States from Finland in the early 1900's, making me 100% Finnish. Other family names include Nurmi, Haataja and Kreeka (Anderson as it was changed to in the U.S.). I grew up in the very Finnish-American community of Bruce Crossing, Michigan. Actually Paynesville but there hasn't been an actual town of Paynesville in decades. Paynesville is still my home, living near the farm my Great-Grandfather John Ojaniemi settled.
My passion is visual storytelling. After completing two feature length documentaries all I want in life is to make more. My full time job is producing commercials and promotions for an NBC affiliate in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. I also teach a digital video course part time at Nicolet College. Other hobbies include golfing, hiking, bear hunting, reading and watching films. Plus spending time with my boyfriend, family, and friends and snuggling with my dogs.
This blog is meant to serve the Finnish-American community and enlighten the rest of the world about Finnish-American culture, history, people and places. Through fun and engaging short video and multimedia stories I will show why we Finnish-Americans are so proud of our heritage and culture.
Most of all this blog is a personal journey for me. As I was producing “Co-operatively Yours” I realized how little I know about my own heritage and Finnish-American history. Where did that 4 year old girl go who was so adamant she was a Finlander? Maybe she has always been there? I decided it is now a mission in my life to learn as much as I can and share it with the rest of the world.
This year I traveled to Finland, went to my first FinnFest and met many good Finns and Finnish-Americans. I have called myself a “bad Finn” because of how little I know. I focused on other things growing up and now I’m ready to learn. The “good Finns” immerse themselves in the culture and activities on a regular basis. They attend Heikinpäivä every year, celebrate Juhannus, or know how to make pannukakku and juustoa. If you aren’t a Finn and have no idea what that last sentence meant, follow me on this journey as I try to become a “good Finn”. I know I have enough sisu to do it.
I have a whole notes list in my cell phone of videos and story ideas I want to share with you. I apologize this first blog wasn’t a video blog. I plan for most of them to be. You will find out soon why I was in a hurry to get the website published today!
Kristin Ojaniemi is a Finnish-American filmmaker, video creator and proud Yooper full of sisu.