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Picture: The European Parliament

 TToday the Finnish flag is not alone in its flight. All 28 European Union nations will be celebrating unity and peace simultaneously on what has been known since 1996 as Europe Day.

So why May 9? Following World War II, the foreign minister of France, Robert Schuman, made a speech in Paris known as the “Schuman declaration.” His idea was to reduce the risk of future division or war by joining Europe together as a supranational community. The speech was made on May 9, 1950, and as a result, the European Steel and Coal Community was established in 1951, which eventually developed into what is known today as the European Union.

Currently, the EU consists of 28 nations with a population of over 510 million and a land mass of over 4 million square kilometers, correlating to about 127.5 people per square kilometer. There are 23 official languages and more than 60 indigenous regional languages spoken within its borders. Finland joined the union on January 1, 1995.

[divider]What is a Flag Day?[/divider]

Being a newcomer to Finland, a strange tradition stood out and bugged me to no end. Each time it happened (maybe twice a month) I referred to it as another “random Finnish flag raising day.” There seemed to be no pattern and I couldn’t find out any information as to the event triggering the spectacle.

After questioning locals and a little research, I have found out that the official term, Flag Days. Finland honors its ancestors who have contributed to their culture by giving them a flag day. It could be their birthday or another significant day depending on their achievements.  On these days, of which there are 18 throughout the year, every flag pole must bear the Finnish flag. It is truly a breath-taking site to behold. Thousands of flags fly high as each building has at least one pole and many streets are lined with flags.