This is our life. No dress rehearsal.

A Canada Day in Helsinki

Introducing Canada to the many people I have had the honour of working with or hanging out with in this past year in Helsinki!


Duleepa Wijayawardhana

July 1, 2018

Watch everyone sing Oh Canada!

Photo: People dancing under the Canadian flag in Helsinki and wishing everyone a Happy Canada Day!

“I love Canada. I don’t know if you know the place but I spent four years living in St. John’s, Newfoundland! Happy Canada Day!”

This from a random stranger at a bar called Siltanen in downtown Helsinki. He had seen my Canadian flag being passed above the dance floor. And he wasn’t the only one. People continuously came up to our group and asked “why the flag?”. When we explained that it was Canada Day weekend, they flashed a smile, high-fived and wished a Happy Canada Day.

Photo: Celebrating Canada Day with a picnic in Helsinki, Anna and Tsailing

As most of my friends know, my most favourite day of the year is Canada Day every year. Every year I have tried to spend Canada Day or the Canada Day weekend in different parts of the country. I’ve explored the territories, provinces, mountains and cities and quaint towns.

Now, however, I find myself “across the pond” far from home in Helsinki, Finland. After realizing that the official Canada Day celebrations by the Canadian embassy was full (a boat tour), I decided to go old-school. Instead of celebrating with Canadians, I decided to introduce Canada to the many people I have had the honour of working with or hanging out with in this past year in Helsinki.

Photo: Canada Day flag, Finnish Lonkero and more drinks being opened, Laura, Anna and Ville

With help from Canadians back home and abroad, I made Nanaimo bars by myself for the first time, maple-infused bacon, roast chicken (also with maple syrup) and mashed potato and carrot in the style of Sunday dinners in Newfoundland. I reached out to my friends on Facebook and asked them for the ultimate Canadian songs to put on a playlist (200 comments and counting now). For those on Google Play Music, search for “Canada in Helsinki” for the playlist.

Photo: Canada Flag facepainting done by Laura

I ordered a Canadian flag on Amazon (amazingly delivered on June 29th), face paint for the kids and hoped the weather would stay sunny enough for a picnic with 20–30 people from all over the world plus one Canadian-Finnish family who had yet to truly celebrate a Canada Day picnic either. The result was a completely fun, random and beautiful celebration of Canada, complete with a rendition of “Oh Canada!” by a mix of Finns, Russians, Brits, New Zealanders, Americans, South Americans and more.

Photo: Viivi, Henrik and kids celebrating their first Canada Day picnic as Finn-Canadians :) with Anna examining a cool bug :)

I could not think of a better way to celebrate my beautiful country while living in a country that is equally beautiful and so reminiscent of Canada than with some of the most wonderful and welcoming people I have met this past year. A huge thanks to you, and happy birthday Canada from a Canadian who truly misses you, but will take you with me to every corner of this world.

Happy Canada Day to all my friends and family no matter where you are in this wide world. From far and wide, Oh Canada!

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Opinions expressed belong to Duleepa Wijayawardhana and never one of his current or former employers.

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