The Nation’s Runeberg

4.2.2023 – 11.5.2025 J. L. Runeberg’s Home Museum

A special exhibition about the cult of personality surrounding the Finnish national poet J. L. Runeberg opens in the J. L. Runeberg’s Home Museum. The exhibition introduces the unique tradition of commemorating J. L. Runeberg, its history, and the multiple forms it takes. J. L. Runeberg’s output as a poet elevated him to the position of national poet in the eyes of the intelligentsia already during his lifetime. Among the common people he gained recognition due to texts depicting Finnishness. Most people know the national anthem Vårt land – Maamme and the epic The Tales of Ensign Stål.  The cake named after Runeberg is still a very popular pastry that is eaten all around the country, especially in February.

The exhibition includes various astonishing gifts and other accolades Runeberg received during his life, such as medals from the Nordic countries and Russia. Also personal mementos such as hair from the poet’s head and beard are on display.

The collection in Porvoo Museum includes a memorial board from 1906 crafted by a bailiff called Kaarlo Lehtola from Jalasjärvi. The board was intended to be a traveling exhibition that would be shipped around the country by rail.

These days commemorating the poet and celebrating his birthday are still practiced in Porvoo as living heritage that is passed on from generation to generation. Through the centuries a central role in the celebrations has been played by the Porvoo volunteer fire brigade and the choir Runebergskören BSB. The form of the celebration has changed somewhat during the years, but the torchlight procession to the grave, the statue, and the poet’s home, along with singing by the choir are still at the core. Celebrating Runeberg is a unique tradition even on an international scale.  It is included in Finland’s National Inventory of Living Heritage along with, for example, sauna bathing, mushroom picking and playing the kantele.

The exhibition is produced by Porvoo Museum and the city of Porvoo.