Christmas in Finland – Experience the splendor of this magical time
Hauskaa Joulua – Merry Christmas! With this exclamation the Christmas holidays are rung in on Christmas Eve in Finland.
Christmas is a family celebration in the Scandinavian country and despite frosty temperatures and snow-covered roads, Finns spare no way to spend the reflective time together with their loved ones.
Pre-Christmas in Finland
The Christmas season in Finland begins in many places as early as November, when the first Christmas parties called Pikkujoulu – Little Christmas are held in clubs and businesses.
The official start of the pre-Christmas season is marked by the numerous Advent concerts in all parts of the country on the first of Advent.
A pre-Christmas highlight is St. Nicholas Day on December 6, which, as Independence Day, is also a public holiday.
Just a week later, Luciafest is celebrated, with girls walking through the streets with wreaths of lights and singing Finnish Christmas carols.
On the evening of December 23, houses and the Christmas tree are festively decorated and porridge with a hidden almond is served as a traditional pre-Christmas meal.
Christmas Eve – festive start of the Christmas holidays
Christmas Eve is the most important day of Christmas in Finland. In keeping with old traditions, Christmas peace is proclaimed in the former Finnish capital Turku at 12 o’clock sharp.
For the Finns, the reading of a greeting on this occasion has great significance and the ceremony, which is more than 500 years old, is broadcast nationwide on television and radio.
After the proclamation of the Christmas Truce, stores close in Finland and in the afternoon the graves in the cemeteries are decorated with candles and wreaths.
Afterwards, families gather in a close circle to sing Christmas carols together.
Before the Christmas dinner is served, most Finnish families have a sauna session.
This is followed by the gift-giving by Santa Claus, which is especially eagerly awaited by the children.
According to Finnish self-image, the home of Santa Claus is the mountain Korvatunturi in Lapland. There he lives with numerous helpers who are busy all year round making gifts for the children.
Santa visits the families before the Christmas dinner and the children have to sing a song or perform a dance before the gift-giving.
Only when Santa Claus, known as Joulupukki, has taken his leave is the traditional holiday meal served.
Contemplative Christmas holidays in Finland
On the morning of December 25, many Finnish families are scheduled to attend a church service.
In the afternoon, friends and relatives gather for a social gathering, with good food and drink. Contemplation returns to many households in the evening hours of Christmas Day.
This time of year is marked by the Christmas truce, which is taken very seriously by most inhabitants of the Scandinavian country.
Boxing Day is traditionally used for sledding in the rural regions of Finland.
December 26 is officially considered “Saint Stephen’s Day” and is known as Tapaninpäivä. In the cities, people tend to forego the Christmas sleigh ride and meet in dance halls and restaurants for tapani dancing.
In Finland, the Christmas season does not officially end until January 6 on the occasion of Epiphany, although life resumes its normal course after the holidays.
Traditional Christmas dishes in Finland
Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve has a high value in Finland. After the gift-giving ceremony, traditional dishes will be served.
The feast starts with hearty appetizers, using fish in different variations.
Widely used are marinated herring and herring salad served with potatoes, apples, onions and gherkins.
The culinary highlight of the Finnish festive meal is the Christmas ham known as Joulukinkku.
The Finnish specialty is a salted pork ham with rind baked in the oven. This is served with a potato casserole or boiled potatoes and vegetables.
The Christmas ham can be eaten hot or cold and usually the leftovers are enjoyed until the end of the Christmas season on Epiphany.
A sweet dessert is served at the end of the Finnish Christmas dinner. Dessert is often rice pudding topped with sweet cranberry juice. In many families, dessert also includes a yeast pastry called pulla, which is eaten with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate.
Hot drink Gögli: The Finnish mulled wine variant
A traditional Finnish hot drink, enjoyed primarily during the Christmas season, is Gögli.
This is a variant of mulled wine, which is refined with sweet currant juice. Gögli gets its characteristic aromatic taste from the addition of cloves, cinnamon and grated lemon peel.
If the basic version is not strong enough, enrich the mulled wine with a shot of vodka. Peeled almonds and raisins are often added to the Gögli.
Finnish Christmas traditions
Finnish Christmas traditions include communal eating of an oatmeal with an almond hidden inside on the eve of December 24. An old Finnish custom says that the one who finds the almond has a happy year ahead.
A permanent feature of Christmas Eve is the announcement of the Christmas truce in the city of Turku, which most Finns attend on their TV sets. Before the traditional Christmas dinner in the close family circle, Santa Claus delivers the gifts.
One of the Finnish Christmas traditions is to remember the animals as well. Pets such as dogs, cats or budgies receive their own gift and for the birds in the wild, rings with sunflower seeds are hung and food balls are distributed in the trees.