Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas in Finland: Traditions and Tips

In Finland THE day is on 24th of December. All offices close on 23rd in the afternoon and open again on 27th. Many people keep holidays between Xmas and New Year, but this year we don't get any extra days off since the 25th and 26th (that are both public holidays) happen to be over the weekend.

And in here they are not "compensated" as in Belgium and many other countries, that means it is bad luck that we "loose" them.

There are many traditions that vary per family, often depending on how their own families have spent it. When two people get married, it creates new traditions when you combine two histories. You pick the best you like, skip some you don't like and it becomes your traditions that you pass on to your kids.

And they make their own...

We start our day with a rise pourage made in the oven. It has got one almond in and the one who gets it, gets to make a wish. I love to have it with cinnemon, sugar and milk but some haei it with plum fool (not stupid, the sauce, kiisseli in Finnish).

We have been quite gentle with our kids and allowed them to open one present from under the tree. In my side of the family the tree was decorated only in the morning of 24th, but that's one thing where I have given in and we decorate it few days ahead. This way we get to enjoy it longer.

I love the smell of the ordinary Finnish pine tree that you can see in the forests, but as my wife is allergic to them and the thicker ones look nicer, we miss the smell but get the looks. Also the needles stay better in the thick ones.

It was actually during the Brussels years that we got used to them. Up here the tree sellers in the corners charge somewhat 70-80 Euros for them, but shamefully I found a very nice looking one from Bauhaus for 40 Euros, danke schön! And as I had a van available, it was a piece of cake to bring it in without a hassle.

We have loads of decorations and most of the years we select the main color between silver and gold. This year we decided to make it without the ribbons. Let's see if you will see a pic later on

Santa Claus, Joulupukki, comes and visits most families during the day or evening. He brings a bag of presents, many of them based on the wish list sent to him in advance. In our family the kids leave Santa's letter outside and the little elves, Santa's helpers, collect them. Most of the time it has been in Santa's bag so the Santa who comes in must be the real one.

The main meal we eat also on 24th, either before or after Santa's visit. If it is after, we open at least one round of presents before that so that the kids can focus a bit more on the meal - and have fun. After all, that's one of the main points of Christmas.

The meal, well I can tell you there are as many variations as there are families but almost all have ham (also Turkey has increased its share but still very marginal), carrot-, turnip-, and potatoe caserols, salted raw salmon, variation of herrings, caviar, paté, cheeses, and many many other goodies.

For dessert we have gingerbread (we also made a house again), plum pastery, chocolate in many variations etc. Some have cake but that's something that no one else in our family likes and I forgot to get one: pinecone cake with marzipan cover. What the heck, I can get one for New Year's eve. Or what eve Tuesday or Thursday when I feel like it ;o)

For the ones who wish to buy some wine or other alcohol for Christmas dinner, the only thing available in Finland is beer with alcohol content less than 4,7%. But remember to buy it before noon as the shops close at 12:00.

We have red wine and freezer cold vodka schnaps = shots with the meal. That tradition comes from my mother's side of the family with a background in St Petersburg before the revolution. You know, Russians like their vodka...

Here are some tips for Christmas season;

If you need to explain why forexample the father of the family is always somewhere when the Santa comes for a visit, how about this:
Dad needs to go up on the roof to help Santa to hold his reindeers so that they won't fly away while the Santa is visiting your house.

For the ones who have family members that are not fond of Christmas ham, here's a good quote I heard yesterday;

"Kinkku on lihaa ja elävänä se oli possu" - "Ham is meat and when it was alive it was a piggy"
(Kiitos LL!)

My high school physical education teacher - legendary Jussi Markkanen at Tapiola School - was a vegetarian at the time. He had not eaten meat for years, and hence it was not that big of a surprise to hear that his younger daughter at the age of 7 or so had never - I mean never - eaten meat.

She was quite ok with it most of the time, but at Christmas time she was a bit hesitating but her father - a PE teacher and a coach at a local track & field team - had a well thought comment to doubts of the young lady;
   "Would you like to eat pig's bottom?"

And so they spent their Christmas happily without a ham :o)

I guess I saved the most important tip as last;
If your mother-in-law says something you would like to comment harshly right away, have a zip of wine you have next to you and smile. You will NOT win anything by saying what's your brilliant opinion that is 179% different than hers.

Yes, the same applies to father-in-laws, sons-in-laws and daughters-in-laws.

Have a fantastic Christmas you all, enjoy the company of the ones near you and cherish the memories of the ones not present!

...I know I will light few candels tonight for the ones I miss a lot.

Loistavaa Joulua!
Have a fantastic Christmas


Tšupukka said...

Toivotan sinulle ja perheellesi oikein ihanaa joulua ja hyvää oloa :)

MIKA said...

On se sitten toivotuksestasi tai jostain muusta johtuvaa mutta ainakin toistaiseksi tämä on toteutunut!

Toivottavasti myös sinulla, nauti olosta ja elosta!!