Finland regions

Tree hugging championships will be held on August 20 in the Finnish Arctic – Eye on the Arctic

A competitor from Poland at the 2020 Tree Hugging Championships in Arctic Finland. (Eat Shoot Drive/Courtesy HaliPuu)

The third annual Finnish Arctic Tree Hugging Championships take place on August 20 and organizers say they are looking forward to another successful event.

“The contest is a fun way to bring attention to nature and how trees and forests, and nature in general, can really bring well-being into your life and make you feel better when you’re stressed,” Riitta Raekallio-Wunderink, HaliPuu’s CEO and director of Tree Hugging said in a phone interview.

HaliPuu is a family tree adoption business based in Levi in ​​Finnish Lapland.

Raekallio-Wunderink came up with the idea for tree hugging championships during the pandemic when she thought people needed a lift.

“We started in 2020 when the coronavirus hit,” says Raekallio-Wunderink. “We wanted to do something to make people happier. Everyone was stuck inside, so I thought that was something we could do to cheer people up.

“We want people to notice nature and the trees around them. Build that connection and make it a little stronger so people will share it with others as well,” says Riitta Raekallio-Wunderink, CEO and Head of Tree Hugging at HaliPuu. (Saara-Maria Salonen/Courtesy of HaliPuu)

HaliPuu has held the event every year since. This year, they expect representatives from ten different countries or regions to participate in three different events: speed hugging; dedication and freestyle, each with its own rules.

Speed-hugging requires contestants to hug as many trees as they can in one minute while meeting the minimum hug duration of five seconds.

Kiss this tree like you mean it

The Dedication category requires a completely different skill set, explains Raekallio-Wunderink.

“With speed you run as fast as you can, but with dedication, we’re taking it slow and really putting our heart and soul into it and really showing your emotion and presence with the tree.

A competitor from the UK gets creative at the 2020 Tree Hugging Championships. (Eat Shoot Drive/Courtesy HaliPuu)

But freestyle is where competitors can really let their personality shine.

“Because it’s a family event, of course there are limits so it’s still family-friendly if you know what I mean, but otherwise you can express yourself as you wish.” says Raekallio-Wunderink.

“We saw some really fun entries, ranging from very creative skills to quite acrobatic skills.”

Worldwide Open Online Championship

At this time, due to limited infrastructure in the area, the on-site event is by invitation only. But it will be streamed live for free so viewers can tune in wherever they are in the world.

But those not in Finland can still participate in the online championships by posting pictures of themselves hugging a tree in their own country.

The winning photo of the 2021 Online Tree Hugging Championships went to Lyazzat from Kazakhstan. (Courtesy of HaliPuu)

The photo will be uploaded to a map so viewers can see the tree hugs happening all over the world.

The winner of the online event will be invited to participate in the real event in 2023 and will receive a week’s accommodation in Levi as well as gift cards and a “pampering trip” in the HaliPuu Forest.

“We’re going to collect a tree hug world map,” Raekallio-Wunderink said. “In previous years we have had wonderful hugs from different parts of the world.

Connect with nature

Raekallio-Wunderink said she always gets immense joy from seeing people having fun with nature at the event, but she also hopes it will inspire people to think more about the environment and protecting it.

“The way I see it is people want to protect what they love, you know? And what we want to do, and show with that, is we want people to notice nature and the trees around them. Build that connection and make it a little bit stronger so that people share it with others as well. Because that’s how we can bring more attention to it and make it a little bit easier to save the forest.

More information on the event, as well as the live stream and instructions for participating in the online championships are available on the HaliPuu website.

The hashtag for the event is #TreeHugging2022.

Finland’s freestyle entry into the 2021 championships. (Saara-Maria Salonen/Courtesy HaliPuu)

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

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