Fourteen years ago I was lucky enough to be able to spend Christmas in Finland with my brother and his family. It was a very unique experience and something that I hope that I will be able to experience again.
Christmas in Finland
Did you know that Santa comes from Finland?
All Finnish Girls and Boys know that Joulupukki lives in the Mountain of Korvatunturi. This is in the town of Savukoski which is in northern Finland, called Lapland. There are many reindeer in Finland, so why wouldn’t Santa or Joulupukki not live where his reindeer live. Joulupukki doesn’t come down the chimney like the American Santa but comes through the door. He can come with his elves and they ask the children if they were good and hand out all the presents to each person in the home.
Here are the 2012 greeting from Joulupukki in Rovaniemi Finland
Like here in America there is much preparation for Christmas in Finland before Joulupukki can come. The first Sunday in December – the First Advent, starts the Christmas season. During Advent many Christmas preparations are started, baking of cookies and prune tarts, getting decorations ready and cleaning the house. Candles and paper flags and straw decorations are popular decorations during this season. The Christmas tree is usually decorated on Christmas Eve morning.
On December 13th, Finland along with Sweden celebrates Saint Lucia Day. To read more about Saint Lucia Day go here. During this time the Star Boys (Tiernapojat) also walk around the streets singing. The current star boys consist of Herod, King of the Moors, Kniht (Herod’s servant and Mankki the Star Twirler. The Star boys sing a play based on the story of the Three Kings who follow the star. At Christmas time the Star Boys will go from house to house, one of the wise men will knock at the door and ask “May the Star come in?”. They are invited in and the play begins. After the performance they collect money or gifts from the audience.
Christmas in Finland is celebrated from December 24th to the 26th. Christmas officially starts at noon on Christmas eve when the Declaration of Christmas Peace is read. In Southern Finland, in Turku, after the noon bell strikes the declaration is read:
“Tomorrow, God willing, is the graceful celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior; and thus is declared a peaceful Christmas time to all, by advising devotion and to behave otherwise quietly and peacefully, because he who breaks this peace and violates the peace of Christmas by any illegal or improper behavior shall under aggravating circumstances be guilty and punished according to what the law and statutes prescribe for each and every offence separately. Finally, a joyous Christmas feast is wished to all inhabitants of the city.” (http://www.family-christmas-traditions.com)
This declaration is broadcast throughout Finland over radio and TV. After the declaration is read the Christmas festivities begin. It is time for family and home. Following a Christmas Eve lunch, everyone takes a sauna to prepare for Christmas. The sauna is very important in a Finnish Christmas and most homes in Finland have a sauna.
Christmas dinner is eaten on Christmas eve and consists of many different types of foods. The foods that are generally eaten are : Ham, Porkkana Lattikko (Carrot Casserole), Peruna Lattikko (Potato Casserole), Lanttu Lattikko (Rutabaga Casserole), Beet and Apple Salad or Cranberry Salad, Hapan kaali salaattii (Sauerkraut Salad), Ruis Leipa (Rye Bread), Sillia– Pickled Herring, Gravi Lohi – Raw thinly sliced Salmon strips, Karjalan Piirakka (Karelian Rice Pastries) with egg butter. Desserts: Riisi Puuro – Rice Porridge w/ almond in it, Rusina Soppa – Raisin Soup, Pulla (Sweet Cardamom Bread) , Joulu Torttuja (Prune Filled Tarts), Piparkakut (ginger cookie) and Sima to drink.
Only one almond is placed in the Riisi Puuro and if you are the person that gets it in your bowl, it means good fortune is bestowed upon you and you also get to sing.
Following dinner, most Finnish people go the cemetery to light candles for loved ones that have passed away. This is a time to remember their families and friends that have gone before them. It is one of the Finnish Christmas traditions that we uphold in our own family. Every Christmas eve we would go to my mother’s grave, light a candle, and sing songs around her grave. It was a time to remember our mother and keep her in our hearts. The year I spent Christmas in Finland, we went to the cemetery, my sister-in-law’s father had passed away and we went and lit a candle at his grave site. There also was a place in the cemetery to light candles for loved ones that were not buried in this cemetery, so we were able to leave a burning candle in memory of our mother and also my sister’s friend who had passed away as a child. Although, our own family had been doing this for years at my mother’s grave, going to a cemetery where there were was a multitude of candles burning was an amazing site, as at each grave site there was not only one candle but possibly many candles and it was a feeling that was hard to describe. It does not feel morbid to do this but serene. Christmas mass is also part of the Finnish Christmas tradition.
Most of the celebration of Christmas in Finland is done on Christmas Eve. Christmas day is spent quietly with family, although many Finns will get up at 6 am to go to morning Church.
For videos of Christmas in Finland and Joulupukki check out
Hyvää Joulua ja Onnellista Uutta Vuotta!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Years
sources: http://www.santaclaus.fi/, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6YOUamewIo, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_boys’, http://www.theholidayspot.com/christmas/worldxmas/finland.htm, http://www.family-christmas-traditions.com/Christmas-traditions-in-Finland.html, http://finland.fi/Public/default.aspx?contentid=180237, http://www.zazzle.com/finnish_christmas_ornaments_in_snow_card-137594889377450179, http://people.tribe.net/goldie/blog/b8813f7e-d253-44eb-aabc-1abb29bb4ee1, http://www.santatelevision.com/finland-photos/yule-goat-finland-christmas/, http://www.slideshare.net/MichaKiebowicz/finnish-christmas-traditions
- Saint Lucia Day ~ Sweden (foodiefriendsfridaydailydish.com)
- CHRISTMAS :: Finnish Christmas Traditions (Hyvää Joulua!) (oaxacaborn.com)