- The seniors of Uusikaupunki High School gather at the square - regardless of the weather. This year, the celebration continues with unique local traditions.
On the second Friday morning of February, the sophomores of the high school start early – the first curls are being set well before dawn. In some households, dresses are being steamed, while in others, people are figuring out how to fasten waistcoats.
The morning of the Elder’s Day is filled with exciting anticipation and nervousness. This is well known to Mari Jalava, the director of the Uusikaupunki Museum, who has had the privilege of witnessing the young students prepare for this unique day for decades.
In Uusikaupunki, the seniors are traditionally photographed at the Wahlberg Museum, fitting the theme of the day.
– Youngsters are honored guests at the museum. They are very clever and always behave well. The morning of the Elder’s Day is also a great experience for me personally, as I get to be a part of the young ones’ important day,” says Jalava. “I must remember to stock up on safety pins, just in case someone needs them for a tailcoat.”
The tradition of photographing the seniors at the museum dates back to the early 1980s. Initially, it was not very organized, and pictures were taken by acquaintances interested in the subject. Later on, local professionals, both from Valokuvaamo Varjus and FotoMika, took on the role of photographers.
The tradition was interrupted for a few years in the late 1980s, but since the early 1990s, the young students have been visiting the museum for a photograph on their special day each year.
-The continuous tradition has now been going on for over thirty years. We at the museum are happy to keep it going as long as the young ones themselves wish to continue,” says Mari Jalava.
Another local tradition associated with the Elder’s Day is the market square dances. In the afternoon, everyone interested can come and watch the seniors in their splendid attire and meticulously rehearsed dance moves at the Uusikaupunki square.
The performance, lasting for a few dances, is eagerly anticipated and highly appreciated by the townspeople.
-Based on the archives, it seems that the seniors first visited the square in 1981, but I don’t know if it was announced in advance back then. More effort started being put into the dances in the mid-1980s, so maybe they wanted to showcase them to others as well, Mari Jalava speculates.
The seniors began organizing evening performances for their families in the 1990s. At the same time, there was a greater focus on both dressing up and dancing than before.
-Undoubtedly, the idea was also connected to the fact that when parents invested money in the day, they also wanted to enjoy watching their children’s celebration.
Dancing in the square appears to be a very Uusikaupunki-specific tradition. Mari Jalava doesn’t recall hearing of anything quite like it from other places.
More often than not, outsiders are both fascinated and amazed by the square dances. They admire it but also wonder: isn’t it cold out there? And what about slipping?
Indeed, the weather can be anything, as Mari Jalava has personal experience from 1985.
-My mother had taken a day off from work to come and watch the square dances. However, it was so bitterly cold outside that we decided to go to Kirsta instead of dancing. It never crossed our minds that someone might be waiting for us to dance on the square, she laughs.
Cold weather is also expected for the upcoming Friday, February 9th, when the seniors of Uusikaupunki High School will gather at the square at 2:30 PM.