A festive event taking place in several university towns on Finland’s Independence Day is the students’ torchlight procession.

In Jyväskylä the local student union’s visit to the soldiers’ graves was arranged for the first time on Independence Day in 1951. The students marched wearing their student caps to the local cemetery to honour their fellow students fallen in war as well as the independence of Finland. Other local civic organisations also participated in the event, together with whom the students laid a wreath at the monument for fallen soldiers.

The event became more impressive in 1956 when the idea of a torchlight procession was adopted from students in Helsinki. For this purpose, four hundred torches were obtained for Jyväskylä. In the first year the procession headed for the Taipale statue in Kirkkopuisto, with a wreath-laying ceremony and some performances by students. In the next year the destination for the procession was the soldiers’ graves in the local cemetery.

The torches were almost given up after the first time, however, because the lighter fluid proved more expensive than expected. However, the torchlight procession was arranged again for the 40th anniversary of Finland’s independence. In 1957 the procession was particularly impressive, as the city, at the request of the student union, switched off the street lights along the route.

Photo: Independence Day torchlight procession at soldiers’ graves in 1957. Photographer: Paavo Granö. JYU / Open Science Centre University Museum photo archive.