Next month, the nation of Finland will mark Advent in a historically unusual way.
Every day from December 1 to Christmas Eve, Finland will post a new small, evocative icon of Finnishness to a special website. One image will depict a pale Finn sweating in a sauna (see above). Another, a doom-metal headbanger. A third, a Nokia 3310, the flagship phone of that old Finnish mobile giant.
An article on This is Finland, an official government site, brags that there will be more than 30 of these icons across the 24 days. It adds: “If you wondered, why we only have 24 hatches on the calendar instead of 25, it is because Christmas is celebrated in Finland on the Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day.”
But then it goes a step too far. Says the online liason of Laplanders: “Finland is the first country in the world to launch its own country-themed emoji sticker set.”
Finland is, to be clear, a wonderful country. But it has called these fun proprietary icons emoji. And about this, it could not be more wrong.
Emoji, like many other mobile innovations, emerged in Japan. They were developed first by private phone companies there—small images that could travel along with text and accent a message. They are a continuation, in many ways, of emoticons. (In Japan, emoticons also grew into kaomoji, which are more complex arrangements of letters and numbers, like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.)