When I saw the crowd gathered on the corner, I wondered if there had been an accident. People parked on the street were half in, half out of their cars, all looking towards the corner, and I could hear an intermittent siren. As I got closer, I saw that many people had their cameras out, and many of those gathered were young – 9, 10, 11 years old, maybe. But there was no accident.
I almost didn’t see what happened next. I had gone out twice already this morning, so when my stomach started yelling to be fed, I tried denying it. I checked to see if the restaurant in the hotel was open for lunch, so I wouldn’t have to bundle up again. No such luck. So I resigned myself to going outside, again. The upside of going out in the cold, I told myself, was that it would be super warm inside when I got back.
I scanned the crowd, and saw a young woman standing by herself, camera ready, smiling with excitement. (I’ve learned that the younger a person is, the more likely that person is to speak English.) “Excuse me, can you tell me what’s going on?” I asked.
“The high school students, they are done with school, and they are leaving…” she searched for the word. “Separating.”
“Like graduation,” I said, thinking I understood (not quite – see below). “Do you know someone?”
Her smile was brighter than the sun today. “My brother.”
I still had no idea what to expect. Would the students walk down the streets in their cap and gowns? Would they be tossing their books and papers in the air, glad to be done?
Finally, I saw what seemed to be a parade – dump trucks filled with students, all waving and cheering and throwing something (candy?) to the crowd. The crowd cheered, waving back. As the trucks got closer, I realized that many of the students were dressed up, as if for Halloween. I have no idea why – I should have asked. But it was fun to see, regardless.
Penkkarit is the celebration of the last day of school for Seniors, prior to end of year exams. “On this day students parade through local communities on the back of open trucks, driving in convoy, waving and throwing candies to passes by and spectators along the roadside.” (Thank you, internet)
Video and pictures were tough to come by, because my camera kept freezing up (ha – get it, freezing up?), but I did get a couple of photos and a short video. I hope you enjoy the randomness as much as I did!
Here’s a link to another (longer) video (not mine) – this one comes from a bigger city, so has more trucks in the convoy. Rauma only had 5 trucks today (and they didn’t have a poliisi escort).