- Holidays and Celebrations
Christmas festive season in Finland
Christmas in Finland
Welcome to my lens on the finnish festive season, being a Brit and living in Finland Helsinki to be exact. One can easily see the differences, and I have to admit that I prefer Christmas in Finland than I do in England, Why?
Well firstly I would have to say the first difference I noticed was that finish people they are generally more laid back, more relaxed there is no crazy rushing about and getting no where like in England, and more people are smiling and laughing. The other thing is the weather, snow I love the snow and in Finland you get a lot of it, and as it's so cold in winter time it stays snow, it doesn't turn all slushy and black.
The history of Christmas in Finland goes back to pre-Christian times. Vikings in the Nordic countries celebrated the winter solstice on the 21st of December by sacrificing to their gods playing games. Exchanging gifts as well as the normal eating and drinking, the finish Christmas originates from a pagan festival called kekri that was celebrated every November until the arrival of Christianity to Finland in the 12th century, when old pagan traditions were combined with Christian Christmas celebrations.
Christmas is the most important annual holiday in Finland. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, are known in Finland as St. Stephen's Day, and are public holidays. Christmas Eve is the main day in Finland compared to Christmas day in other countries. Holiday makers that come to Finland for Christmas are very surprised at how quiet the cities are during this time, as the holiday is usually spent at home with family. And as there only 5.3 million people in the whole of the country some visitors to Helsinki think it has been evacuated. I actually heard some Americans say this on a tram a couple of years back, they were most annoyed, that they had travelled all that way and Helsinki was empty.
In Finland the Christmas tree is set up on Christmas Eve. Fir trees are felled, tied onto sleds, and taken home to be decorated with candies (electric lights nowadays) Artificial Christmas trees are very rare in Finland.
A real spruce tree is considered to be the only true Christmas tree. a gold or silver star is placed at the top of the tree, and the tree is decorated with colourful glass balls, gold and silver ribbons and ornaments that have been kept in the family for several generations.
Straw Christmas decorations
Back in days gone by all decorations would have been made of straw, and these are still popular in many homes today. Straw has been integral to the celebration of Scandinavian holidays for hundreds of years. And today you can still find open air Christmas markets with traditional straw decorations for sail.
Visiting lost loved ones
My first Christmas in Finland I was invited to my girlfriends house for Christmas dinner and to meet her mother and farther for the first time. So there I sat and after about an hour or so they said ok we go to the grave yard now. By this time it was dark and it was about -15 snowing. I thought to my self what? Going to a grave yard.
Anyway we all pile in the car and get to this big cemetery. Well when we got there it was amazing. I have never seen so many candles burning at one time it was beautiful. Unknown to me at that time, but it's custom to visit your lost love ones on Christmas Eve and pay your respects. As well as lighting candles and placing them around the grave, it was so moving it brought a tear to my eye. Back in the UK the only people at a cemetery at Christmas Eve are the residence.
The traditional sauna
Christmas Eve in Finland
And the sauna
The sauna is an important part of the Finnish Christmas tradition and most Finns go to the sauna in the early evening before going to Christmas dinner I love the sauna you go in and after about 15 minuets you can run out and roll naked in the snow or some people prefer to jump into a freezing lake then back into the sauna you do this 3 or 4 times its so invigorating. It's sometimes nice to occasionally use bunches of fragrant silver birch leaves to gently beat yourself. This has a relaxing effect on the muscles, the rolling in the snow or jumping in the lake part of the sauna experience is optional, it's just as nice just to sit back and enjoy.
Have you tryed a sauna or would you ?
This sauna video gives you a good idea
Its not as bad as it looks if you ever get the chance to try this give it a go.
Christmas dinner traditionally begins with appearance of the first star in the sky.
The centrepiece of a Finnish Christmas dinner is the roasted ham, that has been baked in an oven for hours and glazed with a mixture of mustard and breadcrumbs, and is eaten with mustard. Oven-baked vegetable accompany the roast and include turnip potatoes carrots
typical Finnish Christmas dinner usually also includes various types of fish. Smoked salmon or freshly-salted salmon are popular and many Finns also eat pickled herrings. Lutefish is a traditional Finnish dish that is only eaten at Christmas and opinion is divided between those who think it is an essential part of a Finnish Christmas dinner and those who can't stand the smell of it.
A salad called rosolli, made with beetroot, gherkins, carrots, apples and sometimes also pickled herring, accompanies the main dishes. Other salads can also be served and popular options are mushroom salad and stewed red cabbage.
Traditional Finnish Christmas desserts include a rice pudding flavoured with cinnamon and sugar. According to a common Christmas tradition, an almond is hidden in the porridge bowl, and the person who gets it can make a wish.
There are a variety of Christmas sweets and cakes in Finland, but almost every Finn will eat gingerbread biscuits Other sweets include Christmas prune tarts, cinnamon buns, varieties of shortbread and biscuits, and Christmas cakes. Homemade sweets are popular too
Christmas gifts may be exchanged before or after Christmas dinner. Children do not hang up stockings in Finland as in other country’s but Santa visits the household and sometimes with Christmas elves to help him distribute the presents. These visiting Santa’s can be friends of the family there are even company’s that are set up specially so you can order a Santa to visit your children
Some good reading
If you would like to no more about Finland check out these books, they are a good read and give you a good insight into the country.
Coming to finland?
I am an electrical engineer and my job brought me to Finland as I was ship building for Carnival P&O Costa Holland America just about all of them ,I worked in most of Europe and America but I fell in love with Finland. So I ended up quitting my job and turned my love of glass into my job, I am now a glass artist have lived in Finland ten years, and I still love the place.