Finland is inspiring the globe in multiple ways (New Jersey has recently adopted the Finnish “baby box,” for example, and the Finns are well-known for their awesome schools). But I’m betting one Finnish tradition that isn’t going to become a worldwide sensation is this one…the wife-carrying race.
Yes, you read that right. A wife-carrying race!
This Finnish custom (eukonkanto or akankanto in the Finnish language) supposedly originated a few hundred years back when a thief named Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen roamed Finland with a gang of men, robbing villages and stealing women (usually on their backs, apparently). The act of carrying a woman on your back eventually developed into a sport, with the first official “wife-carrying” competition in Finland held in 1992. The origins are pretty sexist, for sure, but today, the sport seems to be flourishing in good fun, with a growing number of fans.
These days, the sport is taken seriously and has a number of rules. Basically, a male competitor carries a female person upside down on his back while running as fast as he can through an obstacle course. As you can see in the below video from Business Insider’s Facebook page, the obstacle course is pretty difficult, featuring water and other hefty obstacles participants must overcome.
It can’t be too pleasant for the female passenger, either, although according to the website of Frederick, South Dakota’s Wife-Carrying Finn Fest, there are several accepted ways of carrying: traditional piggyback, the wife dangling upside down on the carrier’s back, thrown over the shoulder and crosswise on the carrier’s shoulders.
The course is always 253.5 meters (277 yards) and it’s stipulated that the female participant must be over 17 years old and at least 108 pounds. Women must also wear helmets.
Participants must also “have fun.” (Yup, that’s part of the official rules). And no, you do not actually have to be married to the “wife” you carry on your back.
The prize for this silliness? First place wins the wife’s weight in beer. Of course!
In 2017, a couple from Plantation, Florida won the silver medal in the World championships. They plan to head back to Finland next year for a shot at the gold.
If you’re interested in learning more, check out the website of the World Wife-Carrying Championships. It’s a bit hard to read from the Finnish translation, but the photos certainly do tell a story!
[h/t: Business Insider]