Christmas 2014, Finnish-style

I don’t know how Christmas is celebrated in your country, but in Finland it is a peaceful, reflective time. People send greetings like “Rentoa ja Rauhallista Joulua ihan kaikille!” (A Relaxing and Peaceful Christmas to everyone!), or “Levollista joulua teille” (A Restful Christmas to you all”). This attitude is reflected throughout the festive period. Also, Christmas is celebrated on 24th December in the Nordic region, which is presumably to fit in with Santa’s busy schedule; he starts with the closest countries on the 24th and finishes on the 6th January in Spain 🙂

This is how we celebrated Xmas 2014 in Seinäjoki…

The family were all awake by 9:00 and had a quick breakfast. It was a chilly minus 12 degrees outside when we took Boris the Dog out for a walk in the nearby woods, while the sauna was warming-up for our return. The Xmas Eve sauna is not compulsory but many families do it and I wasn’t going to miss out. I couldn’t convince everyone to get involved but Evie joined me.

Leena then made sure she watches the ‘Declaration of Christmas Peace’ at midday. This traditional announcement dates back to medieval times, 1320, and is made from Turku the former capital of Finland. It is read in Finnish and Swedish and is considered the beginning of Christmas;

“Huomenna, jos Jumala, suo, on meidän Herramme ja Vapahtajamme armorikas syntymäjuhla.”

“I morgon, vill Gud, innefaller vår Herres och Frälsares nåderika födelsefest.”

(Tomorrow, God willing, is the grace-filled celebration of the birth of our Lord and Saviour.)

You can read more on the YLE News site here

Leena was also preparing the first of the traditional meals of the day; Riisipuuro (rice porridge, or rice pudding) is a traditional way to start Xmas, with an almond or two dropped in to bestow good luck on the person who finds it in their bowl (similar to the British tradition of sixpence in the Xmas pudding). We ate this at midday rather than for breakfast, and I was lucky enough to get two almonds in my bowl – the kids complained bitterly, then declined to eat those found in their bowls! After eating and getting dressed we set off on the trip to Mummilla (Grandma’s home).

Xmas dinner is something of a feast in many countries and Finland is no different. What IS different is the food that is served. The most ‘Finnish’ part of the menu are the various ‘laatikko’ dishes – literally ‘box’ dishes, these consist of various mashed or pureed vegetables baked in trays in the oven – we had carrot, potato and swede, along with a liver & rice combination, all of which are quite sweet and very more-ish! The main meat served is a roasted ham, plus boiled potatoes, green salad, pickled herrings, coleslaw, and a seasonal, spiced bread ‘Joululimppu’.

Dessert was served two hours later allowing everyone to make a little room for various cakes, biscuits and chocolates as well as the mince pies and Xmas pudding from the UK. In the meantime, we all took a short walk to the nearby cemetery for the tradition of lighting candles in honour of our ancestors. The sight is quite something to behold, with hundreds, thousands(?) of lit candles, the photos really don’t do them justice! It allows you a time-out from all the feasting to think a little about previous generations, and maybe what they would have thought about the concept of a blog or a podcast.

When we returned home the kids found out that ‘Joulupukki’ (Santa Claus) had been. Evie wasted no time putting her ‘tonttu’ hat on, a red elf-hat with a bell on the end, and attacking the pile under the tree. Many Finnish families arrange for someone to visit dressed as ‘pukki to give out the presents, with the children singing songs for ‘pukki. This could be a family friend or someone raising money for their sports club (you can see the photo from our Xmas in 2013) – that said the younger children often find this a little scary and Leena has bad childhood memories of Santa being a little too merry at the end of a long day delivering gifts! We didn’t have anyone come this year, but that didn’t dampen the excitement – those presents didn’t stand a chance!

After the presents came dessert, after dessert came wine and board games. Neither were compulsory, but we tried a couple of the new games that Olli & Evie received, Splendor (Olli) The Magic Tower (Evie). Sadly though, it was soon time to head home and light the fire, the kids promptly fell asleep in bed, and Leena and I promptly fell asleep in front of the TV – well some things never change…

Hyvää joulua / Merry Xmas

◊◊◊ Mark ◊◊◊


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