Finnish Football Show #20: Veikkausliiga at the 1/3 stage & Huuhkajat

Join Mark (@explorefinland), Rich (@EscapeToSuomi) and Mark (@FCSuomi) for monthly episodes, where 3 old blokes sit and talk about football. In Finland.

In episode 20, we look at how the Veikkausliiga season 2018 looks with 33% of games played, and we discuss the June 2018 friendlies for the Finnish national team. Add-in some short news stories, Finns Overseas and ramblings about Rich’s shirt, and it’s another high-standard Finnish Football Show.

 

Download an MP3 of Finnish Football Show 20 – Veikkausliiga at the 33% stage & Huuhkajat

Show Notes & Video

Finnish Football Show #19: Veikkausliiga 2018 preview, Suomen Cup & Huuhkajat Continue to Impress

Join Mark (@explorefinland), Rich (@EscapeToSuomi) and Mark (@FCSuomi) for monthly episodes, where 3 old blokes sit and talk about football. In Finland.

In episode 19, we preview the Veikkausliiga season 2018, marvel at the continuing impressive form of the Finnish national team and discuss the past week of Suomen Cup action (Quarter- and Semi-finals). We also dive into Academy teams in the lower divisions and an interesting closed-season transfer.

 

Download an MP3 of Finnish Football Show 19 – Veikkausliiga 2018 preview, Suomen Cup & Huuhkajat

Show Notes & Video

Finnish Football Shorts Episode 6 – 10th Anniversary of SJK’s Klopit


FINNISH SHORTS
As a supplement to the live recorded Finnish Football Show, Mark W speaks to Lari Paski, Supporters Liaison Officer and leader of the Klopit; Seinäjoki FC’s supporters group. It was recorded on the coach to watch SJK vs KPV in the Suomen Cup in February 2018 – so there’s a little background noise.

MP3 Player

 

Download an MP3 of Finnish Football Shorts 6 – 10th Anniversary of SJK’s Klopit Show Notes & Video

Finnish Football Shorts Episode 5 – January 2018, Dubai Friendlies Preview


FINNISH SHORTS
As a supplement to the live recorded Finnish Football Show, Mark W and Mark H preview Huuhkajat’s upcoming training camp in Dubai including one (or two) friendlies

MP3 Player

Download an MP3 of Finnish Football Shorts 5 – January 2018, Dubai Friendlies preview Show Notes & Video

Finnish Football Show #17: End of Veiikausliiga Round-up & More Goals for Huuhkajat

Join Mark (@explorefinland), Rich (@EscapeToSuomi) and Mark (@FCSuomi) for monthly episodes, where 3 old blokes sit and talk about football. In Finland.

Download an MP3 of Finnish Football Show #17: End of Veiikausliiga Round-up & More Goals for Huuhkajat

Show Notes & Video

Finnish Football Show #16: Summer 2017 Catch-up – Huuhkajat victories, Veikkausliiga & Another Manager Leaves SJK


Join Mark (@explorefinland), Rich (@EscapeToSuomi) and Mark (@FCSuomi) for monthly episodes, where 3 old blokes sit and talk about football. In Finland.

Download an MP3 of Finnish Football Show #16- Summer 2017 Catch-up Huuhkajat victories, Veikkausliiga & Another Manager Leaves SJK

Show Notes & Video

One Week Holiday in Finland: Putting The Podcast Into Practice

Similar to my summer 2016 post, in summer 2017 I had another opportunity to put what I learned in the podcast into practice. Whenever I have visitors staying with us, I always try to give them the ‘Finland Experience’, and it was no different when my parents came for a one-week holiday. It seemed that we had a different activity for each day, an ‘ideal week in Etelä-Pohjanmaa’.   I thought I’d share our week with you along with some photos, from a small sweet factory to live sport to a music festival.

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Finnish Football Show #15: Veikkausliiga, Huuhkajat, Finns Overseas & All-change at SJK


Join Mark (@explorefinland), Rich (@EscapeToSuomi) and Mark (@FCSuomi) for monthly episodes, where 3 old blokes sit and talk about football. In Finland.

Download an MP3 of  Finnish Football Show #15 – Veikkausliiga, Huuhkajat & all-change at SJK

Show Notes & Video

Finnish Football Show #14: Huuhkajat in Action & Veikkausliiga 2017 Kicks-off


Join Mark (@explorefinland), Rich (@EscapeToSuomi) and Mark (@FCSuomi) for monthly episodes, where 3 old blokes sit and talk about football. In Finland.

Download an MP3 of Finnish Football Show #14 – Huuhkajat in Action & Veikkausliiga 2017 Kicks-off

Show Notes & Video

Finnish Football Show #13 Bonus: ‘Finland Identity’ Project and U19 Euro 2018

FINNISH FOOTBALL SHOW
Join Mark (@explorefinland), Rich (@EscapeToSuomi) and Mark (@FCSuomi) for monthly episodes, where 3 old blokes sit and talk about football. In Finland.

Download an MP3 of Finnish Football Show 13 Bonus – ‘Finland Identity’ Project and U19 Euro 2018

Show Notes & Video

Finnish Football Show #13: Friendlies in the Desert & Suomen Cup

FINNISH FOOTBALL SHOW
Join Mark (@explorefinland), Rich (@EscapeToSuomi) and Mark (@FCSuomi) for monthly episodes, where 3 old blokes sit and talk about football. In Finland.

Download an MP3 of Finnish Football Show 13 – Friendlies in the Desert and Suomen Cup

Show Notes & Video

Finnish Football Shorts Episode 4 – Interview with new SJK Seinäjoki Manager, Sixten Boström


FINNISH SHORTS
As a supplement to the live recorded Finnish Football Show, this is an interview with new SJK Manager, Sixten Boström, recorded at the SJK press conference on Monday 20.2.2017.

Download an MP3 of FFShorts Episode 4 – Interview with New SJK Seinäjoki Manager, Sixten Boström Show Notes & Video

Finnish Football Shorts Episode 3 – SJK Launches an eSports Team


FINNISH SHORTS
As a supplement to the live recorded Finnish Football Show, here’s something slightly different, a selection of interviews from the SJK press conference to launch its new eSports team.

Download an MP3 of FFShorts 3 – SJK Seinäjoki Launches an eSports Team

Show Notes & Video

Finnish Football Show #11: 2016 Review – New Veikkausliiga Champions

FINNISH FOOTBALL SHOW
Join Mark (@explorefinland), Rich (@EscapeToSuomi) and Mark (@FCSuomi) for monthly episodes, where 3 old blokes sit and talk about football. In Finland.

Download an MP3 of Finnish Football Show #11: 2016 Review – New Veikkausliiga Champions

Show Notes & Video

Finnish Football Show #10: October World Cup Qualifiers Review

FINNISH FOOTBALL SHOW
Join Mark (@explorefinland), Rich (@escapetosuomi) and Mark (@FCSuomi) for monthly episodes, where 3 old blokes sit and talk about football. In Finland.

Download an MP3 of Finnish Football Show #10: October World Cup Qualifiers Review

Show Notes & Video

Finnish Football Show #9: Suomen Cup Final, Stadin Derby & Veikkausliiga

FINNISH FOOTBALL SHOW
Join Mark (@explorefinland), Rich (@escapetosuomi) and Mark (@FCSuomi) for monthly episodes, where 3 old blokes sit and talk about football. In Finland.

Download an MP3 of Finnish Football Show 9 – Suomen Cup Final, Stadin Derby & Veikkausliiga Show Notes & Video

Finnish Football Show #8 – World Cup Qualifying starts & Veikkausliiga update

FINNISH FOOTBALL SHOW
Join Mark (@explorefinland), Rich (@escapetosuomi) and Mark (@MaHa_FCSuomi) for monthly episodes, where 3 old blokes sit and talk about football. In Finland.

Download an MP3 of Finnish Football Show #8 – World Cup Qualifying starts & Veikkausliiga update Show Notes & Video

Exploring Finland: Putting The Podcast Into Practice

Podcast Into Practice

During summer 2016, I had the opportunity to visit the wilds of Eastern Finland, near to the town of Kitee.  I was invited to join Satu at her Grandparents’ old home, right on Finland’s border with Russia. During this trip, I found myself saying ‘yeah, I know about this, I covered it in the podcast’, for example; sauna with vihta, foraging in the woods, the eveacuation of Karelia and Finnish ice cream.

I thought I’d share with you some pictures of these activities, and the podcast episodes they came from. Read more

Finnish Football Show #6 – An upturn for Huuhkajat? And Veikkausliiga so far.

FINNISH FOOTBALL SHOW
Join Mark (@explorefinland), Rich (@escapetosuomi) and Mark (@MaHa_FCSuomi) for monthly episodes, where 3 old blokes sit and talk about football. In Finland.

Download an MP3 of Finnish Football Show #6 – An upturn for Huuhkajat? And Veikkausliiga so far. Show Notes & Video

‘Regional Developer Prize 2015’ Award for the Explore Finland Radio Show

Mark looking suitably humble (for once!)

Mark looking suitably humble (for once!)

On Friday 13th May 2016, I was given an award by Etelä-Pohjanmaan aluekehittäjät ry EPAK (a Regional Development Association in Etelä-Pohjanmaa.  This was in recognition of the work I have done with the Explore Finland Radio Show and the Finnish Football Show. This is how EPAK announced the award:

Regional developer prize winner of the year 2015 is Mark Wiltshear

The regional development association of Southern Ostrobothnia EPAK has chosen Mark Wiltshear, the voice of the Explore Finland Radio Show and Finnish Football Radio Show, as the winner of the Regional development prize of the year 2015. Mark Wiltshear works as a Project Manager in the internationalization and export development company Xport. He is also the Co-founder of the company. Wiltshear has moved to Seinäjoki from London.

The board of the association was unanimous about the decision. ”Mark’s podcasts, notes and pictures represent South Ostrobothnia lifestyle and the characteristics of the region in an exceptionally the warm, creative and professional way. The genuine enthusiasm and fire in Mark’s work inspires respect and joy in all of us. The podcasts offer the listeners interesting and eye opening true-life experiences and perceptions that make us return to the show time after the time. Most of the podcast also have local people as visiting guest speakers. We warmly recommend the shows to everyone.”

The prize is being awarded now for the seventh time by regional development association of Southern Ostrobothnia. The prize is awarded annually. Previous award winners are:

– 2014 Researcher, Chairman of the Board, Jussi Rasku, Game Developers Association of Seinäjoki (Sepeli ry)

– 2013 Managing Director Sami Heinimäki, Härmä Transport Ltd

– 2012 SELMU, Live Music Association

– 2011 Development Planner Eira Hakola,Regional Counsil of South Ostrobothnia

– 2010 Executive Director Sinikka Koivumäki, The Development Association of Seinäjoki Region (Liiveri)

– 2009 Research Director Juha Alarinta, UCS (University Consortium of Seinäjoki)

Regional development association of Southern Ostrobothnia is registered association (2009) whose aim is to promote South Ostrobothnia’s independent and unbiased development and regional development at its various aspects and procedures. It’s aim is also give recognition to succesful regional development work by granting the regional developer prize annually.

Press Release / Lehdistötiedote

I want to say a huge THANK YOU to Tytti Isokangas, Chair of the Board of EPAK, and everyone that was involved in this decision. The award came as a complete surprise and, needless to say, I am very proud and humbled to have been recognised by my peers; people who have similar opinions about raising the profile of Etelä-Pohjanmaa.

It was presented at the opening of the new office space that Bstr Advertising Agency shares with Xport in Seinäjoki (yes, the swing is part of the new office furniture!) The fact that I was in the company of so many friends, colleagues and business contacts made the moment that more special.

Brit Enjoys Nature. How the news was reported in Ilkka Newspaper

Brit Enjoys Nature. How the news was reported in Ilkka Newspaper

http://www.ilkka.fi/uutiset/maakunta/mark-wiltshear-on-vuoden-aluekehitt%C3%A4j%C3%A4-1.2048634

I hope now that this can be a springboard for starting to take some concrete action to benefit Seinäjoki, Etelä-Pohjanmaa and the neighbouring regions. I have a vision that I’ve started sharing with people and I’d love to start working to make this a reality. My company, Xport, is well-positioned to help local companies that want to become more international, and this can includes developing tourism ideas and preparing local businesses for receiving overseas visitors.

If you want to learn more about this vision, please make contact and I’d be happy to meet with you in person xport.fi/contact

Finally, I want to say thank you to YOU; for reading this and being interested in the podcast; for being one of the regular listeners to the show – there is no show without listeners; or if you have appeared in the podcast –there is no show without the people of Etelä-Pohjanmaa agreeing to be interviewed and generously giving me their time! Thank you all.

◊◊◊ Mark Wiltshear ◊◊◊

Finnish Football Show #5 – The Worst Time to Start a Podcast About Finnish Football?

FINNISH FOOTBALL SHOW
Join Mark (@explorefinland), Rich (@escapetosuomi) and Mark (@MaHa_FCSuomi) for monthly episodes, where 3 old blokes sit and talk about football. In Finland.

Download an MP3 of Finnish Football Show 5 – The Worst Time to Start a Podcast About Finnish Football?

Show Notes & Video

Finnish Football Show #4 – ‘Cupsets’ and Finns in Action Overseas

FINNISH FOOTBALL SHOW
Join Mark (@explorefinland), Rich (@escapetosuomi) and Mark (@MaHa_FCSuomi) for monthly episodes, where 3 old blokes sit and talk about football. In Finland.

Download an MP3 of FinnishFootballShow #4 – ‘Cupsets’ and Finns in Action Overseas

Show Notes & Video

Finnish Football Show #3 – Football In The Desert & Pre-season Transfers

FINNISH FOOTBALL SHOW
Join Mark (@explorefinland), Rich (@escapetosuomi) and Mark (@MaHa_FCSuomi) for monthly episodes, where 3 old blokes sit and talk about football. In Finland.

Download an MP3 of FinnishFootballShow3 – Football In The Desert & Pre-season Transfers

Show Notes & Video

Finnish Football Show #1 – Veikkausliiga 2015 Review

FINNISH FOOTBALL SHOW
Join Mark (@explorefinland), Rich (@escapetosuomi) and Mark (@MaHa_FCSuomi) for the first episode of the Finnish Football Show series, where 3 old blokes sit and talk about football. In Finland.

Download an MP3 of Finnish Football Show #1 – Veikkausliiga 2015 Review

Show Notes & Video

What on Earth is Mölkky? And how exactly do you say it?

IMG_0030

The Mölkky skittles at the start of the game

Summer 2015 barely deserves that name, but as August starts and the school holidays draw to a close, of course, the weather takes a turn for the better!

This is the perfect opportunity to try out our new garden game, Mölkky. To answer the 2nd question first, it is pronounced Meul-kuu. The first question needs only a little more explanation. Simply put, it is a bit like pub-skittles, where you use a wooden baton to knock over the skittles, numbered 1-12, scoring points as you go. Naturally, it’s the details that make it fun.

At the start of the game the skittles are arranged on a group, close together. The players take it in turns to throw the baton to try to knock the skittles over. If you knock over a single skittle, you score the value on that skittle, if you knock over more than one, you score a single point for each.

After the each turn the skittles are reset in the position they landed, so the game area soon starts to spread, isolating certain skittles, allowing them to be targeted more easily – but at the risk of missing all of them! The winner is the first player to reach the score of 50. Easy enough BUT if you go over, even by a single point, then your score is rest to 25 and you allow your opponents a chance to win.

Simple, fun and addictive. The other great aspect is that almost any number can play. I’ve played one vs.one and in a group of 15+, so it’s ideal for summer parties, barbecues etc.

As the official Mölkky website says ‘hard to say, easy to play.’

You can read more about the game here http://www.tactic.net/molkky/

◊◊◊ Mark ◊◊◊

International Students in Finland, 2of2

SeAMK Collage2 Sq2

Season 1 Episode 15 International Students Studying in Finland
Junyi, Betti & Miia Explain All, Part 2
This is a continuation of a conversation, where we talk about experiences of moving to Finland, business culture in South Ostrobothnia, what Betti and Winnie do in their free-time and, of course, the weather.

Guests:

  • Jinyu (Winnie) Ding & Betti Csiba – International Students.
  • Miia Koski – Student counsellor, Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences.

Listen to the show  on your preferred podcast player  – iTunes or Stitcher radio or Feedburner

Download an MP3 file of this episode

Read the Show Notes

The 2015 General Elections in Finland

Election Collage Lg2

Season1 Episode 14 On The Election Trail with
‘Henna Rantasaari #135’
In this episode, I speak to Henna about the upcoming elections here in Finland. She explains how the political system works, how the Parliamentary seats are allocated and how the Government is formed.

Guest: Henna Rantasaari, Green Party Candidate

Listen to the show  on your preferred podcast player  – iTunes or Stitcher radio or Feedburner

Download an MP3 file of this episode here

Read the Show Notes

Easter in Finland: The Season of the (white) Witch

Easter traditions in Finland

Easter in Finalnd involves as much chocolate as my Easters growing up in the UK, but here they work a lot harder for it! My experiences below are based on my observations living in Western Finland, these differ from Eastern Finland.

Growing Grass

Approximately one week before Easter, the children plant grass seeds in dishes and excitedly watch them grow throughout the week. This is symbolic of the reawakening of the lad after Winter and, sometimes, is the first time grass has been spotted during the year!

Easter grass

Easter grass

Decorating Pajunkissa

This work starts in the week leading up to Easter, when the children go out to collect Pussy Willow twigs (Pajunkissa) which are just starting to sprout small, fluffy buds. These are then painstaking decorated with coloured pipe-cleaners, feathers, ribbons and small chicks. These will become vital ‘currency’ at the end of the week.

Decorated pajunkissa

Decorated pajunkissa

Practising the Virvonta Rhyme

During the week, the children will also practice the all-important Virvonta rhyme, which will be oft-repeated on Easter Saturday;

“Virvon varvon, tuoreeks terveeks tulevaks vuodeks. Vitsa sulle, palkka mulle!”

Which translates as;

“I wave a twig for a fresh and healthy year ahead: A twig for you, a treat for me!”

(Thanks to Fran Weaver on This Is Finland for the translation.)

 

Dressing-up as Witches

Traditionally, the Finnish Easter-witches, or Trulli, look more like wise, old women or maybe white witches, brightly dressed in head scarves and apron with freckles painted on their faces. That said,  the influence of Halloween has been evident in recent years with an increase in the number of witches dressed in black – in fact, this year we were also visited by a skeleton!

Virvonta

Easter Saturday finally arrives and all of the preceding preparations come together for the tradition of Virvonta. The children gather together their decorated pajunkissa, they dress-up as witches and take a basket or bag for collecting treats; usually chocolate eggs, small chocolate bars, sweets etc.

They then hit the street, similar to Halloween traditions, they go knocking on doors, reciting their rhyme while waving a twig (in our case, driving Boris the Dog crazy at the same time!). The homeowner will then offer a treat and take the twig form the children. Meaning that the kids accumulate sweets, while the homeowners accumulate decorated twigs!

Boris the Dog, keeping a lookout for witches!

Boris the Dog, keeping a lookout for witches!

Bonfires

In the evening, many people will gather around large, communal bonfires. These are designed to ward of evil spirits… or maybe to burn excess wood left over from winter.

Hyvää pääsiäistä! / Happy Easter!

◊◊◊ Mark ◊◊◊

International Students in Finland, 1of2

SeAMK Collage Lg2

Season1 Episode 13 International Students Studying in Finland, Junyi, Betti & Miia Explain All, Part 1
In this episode, I meet Junyi Ding & Betti Csiba, who tell me about life as an international student at Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences (SeAMK). Many thanks to Miia Koski from SeAMK for arranging (and participating in) the recording.

Guests: Jinyu (Winnie) Ding & Betti Csiba – International Students. Miia Koski – Student counsellor, SeAMK

Listen to the show  on your preferred podcast player  – iTunes or Stitcher radio or Feedburner

Download an MP3 file of this episode

Read the Show Notes

High-speed Motor Racing On Ice at Botniaring

Icerace Collage2

Season 1 Episode 12 High-speed Motor Racing (on ice!) with Kristiina
In this episode, I speak to race organiser Kristiina ahead of the VillaAPR Icerace at the Botniaring race track in Jurva, Etelä-Pohjanmaa. Listen as she tells me about the meeting, the track and the facilities, before I visit the APR Icerace in February 2015.

Guest: Kristiina Vaalasmaa

Listen to the show  on your preferred podcast player  – iTunes or Stitcher radio or Feedburner

Download an MP3 file of this episode

Read the Show Notes

Introducing: Ostrobothnia In English magazine

I just wanted to take a moment to introduce the Ostrobothnia In English e-magazine, something of a kindred spirit to the Explore Finland Radio Show; both take a similar premise, taking Ostrobothnia to a global audience, but via very different mediums.

I’m delighted that Teija Tynkkinen, the Editor of OIE, has included a ‘few words’ from me for the first edition of her magazine. I hope that this will be something on which we can cooperate over the coming months and years, so if you’re more of a reader of, than a listener to, the Explore Finland Radio Show, then you should probably check it out.

And if you are a regular listener (bless you!) you should probably follow the link below and have a read as well. Let me know in the comments what you think.

◊◊◊ Mark ◊◊◊

Softengine, Luritus Choir & Alvar Aalto. In concert.

Many of you outside of Europe may not fully understand the Eurovision Song Contest, not everyone inside Europe takes it that seriously, and the recent balkanisation of European counties has led to countries ‘voting for their neighbours hasn’t helped that, but the viewing figures are huge and many a star has been born at Eurovision.

In 2014, Finland was represented by Softengine, a rock band consisting of five young guys from Seinäjoki and their debut tune Something Better. They managed an impressive 11th place and, in the process, amassed Finland’s second best-ever score of 72 points (heavy metal monsters Lordi actually won  the competition in 2006 with 292 points) Following this performance, Softengine’s profile in Finland has risen pretty high and late last year they released their debut album, We Created the World; Caleb Followill’s roaring vocals, the melodies of Coldplay and fashionable, rave-synths are pretty good signposts to the album’s sound.

There was a story in Ilkka, the regional, daily newspaper, on Sunday 11.1.2015 about a slightly different gig for Softengine, one that covers a few local touchstones; rock music, choir-singing and Alvar Aalto!

On 15th March 2015, Softengine will be playing a concert in Seinäjoki at the iconic Lakeuden Risti church, which was designed by the iconic Alvar Aalto. At this show, the band will be backed by a local youth choir, Luritus, with whom Softengine have a longstanding connection.

Luritus is not a traditional, church choir, they describe themselves on Facebook as a choir for ‘…both boys and girls – children and teenagers. Luritus isn’t a traditional choir. Besides singing, the performances include varied instruments, body percussion, drama, poetry and dance.’ The YouTube video below gives a good idea of what that invloves.

Full disclosure, my son Olli is a member of Luritus, and the Choir Leader, Hanne Orrenmaa, really has them well-drilled both with their singing and their movement. Every performance is different and well worth your time. I have my ticket, and I’m already counting the days. See you there?

◊◊◊ Mark ◊◊◊

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 ◊◊◊