The Independence Day reception has long traditions. During the period of autonomy, dances were arranged in connection with the Diet at the Imperial Palace, which is nowadays the Presidential Palace. This paved the way for Independence Day receptions, first in the afternoon and then in the evening.
The first receptions
The history of the Independence Day reception stretches back to 1919, when the first afternoon reception was held at the Presidential Palace. In 1919-1921 the guest list included the Government, diplomats and civil servants, about 150 persons in all. Coffee was served and the programme included music. After the reception festivities continued at the National Theatre.
On 6 December 1922 President K.J. Ståhlberg and Mrs Ester Ståhlberg hosted the first evening reception at the Presidential Palace. The reception began at nine o'clock and over a thousand guests were invited. Singing, music and dancing were on the programme.
Tradition of evening receptions established
In 1923 and 1924 receptions were held in the afternoon, but the next year President Lauri Relander and Mrs Signe Relander invited about 1,600 people to celebrate on the eve of Independence Day, 5 December 1925. Guests included the Government, diplomats, Members of Parliament, high-ranking officers, senior civil servants, artists and other prominent people. Music and dancing were on the programme and the reception lasted until late at night. Similar receptions have been held ever since, though less regularly in the beginning. Receptions were not held in 1926, 1931, 1932 or during the war years, 1939-1945.
Since 1946 the Independence Day reception has taken place at the President Palace every year with four exceptions. In 1952 it was cancelled on account of President Paasikivi's illness. In 1972 it was held at Finlandia Hall in connection with the Independence Day concert, with the Prime Minister as host, because the Presidential Palace was being renovated. In 1974 it was cancelled on account of the death of the President's wife, Mrs Sylvi Kekkonen, on 2 December 1974. In 1981 it was held at Finlandia Hall after the Independence Day concert, with Deputy Prime Minister Eino Uusitalo as host, because President Urho Kekkonen was in poor health.
Receptions in their present form
The Independence Day reception at the Presidential Palace has been called by its present name since 1964. The number of guests has varied from about 1,600 to 2,000.