The Country Known For Wife-Carrying Races And Peacemaking

Finland's Unusual Gift To The World

Wife carrying race in Finland. Credit: Hannu Keranen/Wifecarrying/

Have you ever heard of Finland’s unique athletic event? In the charming town of Sonkajarvi, an extraordinary tradition has been captivating the world since 1992.

A Finnish institution known as the ‘wife-carrying’ contest involves men shouldering their wives as they tackle a challenging course filled with sand, water, and valleys, writes BNN.

Instead of a traditional trophy, the winner wins his wife’s weight in beer. This intriguing race has garnered global interest, with participants travelling from countries as far afield as the USA, UK, Australia, India, and Germany.

Wife-Carrying Origins

Delving into its history, the ‘wife-carrying’ contest celebrates more than mere athleticism. Its inception can be linked to the legend of Rosvo-Ronkainen, a famed 19th-century gang leader. Legend has it he assessed his potential gang members’ endurance by having them carry heavy sacks across similar terrains.

Today’s competition rules state that the ‘wives’, who aren’t necessarily the participants’ legal spouses, must be aged between 17 and 49.

Global Impact

Though beer might be the initial allure, the event’s significance transcends this frothy reward. The annual contest which takes place every July, epitomises Finland’s unique cultural tapestry, encompassing humour, fitness and fighting spirit.

Its influence is widespread, and has inspired similar events worldwide and underscoring the universal themes of fellowship and challenge.

A Diplomatic Footprint

However, Finland’s global mark isn’t solely anchored in cultural celebrations. Just recently on October 16, ex-Finnish president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Martti Ahtisaari passed away at the age of  86.

Ahtisaari served as president from 1994 to 2000, and was instrumental in mediating global disputes. His pivotal roles in peace talks, spanning Kosovo to Namibia profoundly influenced the international stage.

During his leadership, Ahtisaari navigated Finland into the European Union’s expansive era. He ardently championed European unity and NATO, with Finland becoming a member of both during his term.

Post-retirement, his passion for peace remained undimmed, evident in his Crisis Management Initiative (CMI). This organisation aims to mitigate and resolve conflicts through conversation and mediation.

In a landscape often scarred by strife, both Ahtisaari’s impactful legacy and the ‘wife-carrying’ contest showcase Finland’s distinctive contributions. Each embodies Finland’s unwavering dedication to solidarity, resilience, and tranquillity. Be it through the physical burden borne by racers or the metaphoric weight of diplomatic dialogues.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.