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.
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Kristin Ojaniemi is a Finnish-American filmmaker, video creator and proud Yooper full of sisu.