The celebration of the year 3’s leaving Lukio, sometimes referred to as Year 3 Candy Day.
Traditionally (at least in Lieksa) the days begins when the Abi’s (Finnish leavers) blast music over the loud speakers and begin their classroom visits. Dressed in crazy costumes they throw candies to all the younger boys and girls before and after taping them to chairs.
I began the day safe in the thought that I would be spared in what became a taping extravaganza. I had not yet encountered any of the third graders and typically the Abi’s target their friends. Alas into the German class that day walked a boy dressed as a fire fighter. I believe he is a prominent social figure in the third class as he starred in many of the day’s events. Slowly he approached my desk in the back corner of the room.
From his mouth came the words; I hear you are from Australia, so I am sorry but I have to tape you.
And so I was taped.
But I got a kilo of candy before 9 o’clock!
Next on the agenda we made our way to a hall to witness the Abi’s pranking of the teachers. Pekka the principal was already wearing a jumper with a camel on the back and the words, International Camel Breeders Association-Cambridge Chapter on the front. Other members of staff wore girt pillows protecting themselves from the horrors, which would soon be inflicted on them.
Some serious taping action was going down in that hall. There were at least 8 2nd graders taped to each other and then to the wall. More and more unsuspecting youngsters were added to the bunch. Legs were being tangled and taped it was insane!
The pranking proceedings were conducted by my Tapist and were completely in Finnish (save short interludes in German between the Abi’s and Nina-the German teacher.) Most of the intellectual content of this assembly were inaccessible to my understanding. Despite this the humor of rigging a student vs. teachers game of hangman and watching the principal and teachers rap evades the language barrier and I could enjoy the celebrations as my classmates were.
To cap it all off the Abi’s played a game of floor-ball against the staff. With a blanket covering the opening of their goal, 5 goalkeepers and their excitement and of course athletic skill it was the Abi’s who were victorious. Viva la Abi’s!
Upon my arrival to Lieksan Lukio the walls were decorated with frescos painted by the 3rd graders. There was one for each class group, three in total. Their fate was to be burned on the day of the Penkkarit. Following the assembly they were ripped from the walls and escorted to the caught yard to meet their glorious end. The Abi’s made a circle around them and representatives from 3 A, B and C lit their matches and said goodbye to the frescos depicting the team from Shrek, Springfield Elementary School and Richard Scarry’s Busytown. They ran in a circle holding hands shouting Nolla, Nolla, Nolla. Zero, Zero, Zero.
The now only needed to fill their bellies and be kicked out of Lukio once and for all. Hungrily we waited for the Abi’s to Finnish their lunch. When they did they gathered the remainders of their candies or new supplies delivered from parents and slid down a massive slide that covered the entire staircase. They were then carried from the school. This is normally a task of which all the younger students help with however it was -25ish degrees and perhaps people were not feeling so enthusiastic. It was a few of the ice-hockey boys in my year who took charge carrying out the older students in style in Egyptian-Pharaohs-being-supported-by-slaves fashion or like a pork carcass in the abattoir.
From there they boarded trucked and drove around Lieksa screaming Nolla and throwing candies to the crowds!
Overall it was pretty amazing to watch. The traditions of Penkkarit are fantastic fun and it brought a lot of people together to enjoy the celebrations. It is a far cry from the Muck-up days in Australia where trashing the school and destroying teachers cars are the main agenda of the day. I did not go to one of these schools and my schools traditions were wholesome and fun, we dressed up, put on an assembly for the younger girls and jumped in the ocean wearing school dresses. But it is nice to think that the activities of Penkkarit are enjoyed in similar way across the whole of Finland and that it is a unique and special Finnish tradition.