(The song is not very Finnish, but otherwise it depicts the our winter pretty well!)
The winter in Finland can be as magical as it can be dark and cold. Here I have listed some essential things in experiencing the Finnish winter. Be prepared!
Talvi (winter) takes up to one third of a year, it starts around November and lasts until the beginning of April, which I feel is a very long time. During that time the time of daylight is short, and the weather may change drastically. Temperatures may vary from – 0 to – 20 degrees celcius, sometimes going down to -30 celcius. We tackle pakkanen (the cold, the minus degree temperatures) with warm, thick clothes and go to work and school. Yet, because of the melting of the North Pole, the winters in Finland are slowly getting milder so the actual cold periods are getting much shorter. I wish that meant we could get the summer earlier, because that’s even more beautiful than our winter!
Many Finns do like talviurheilu (winter sports), especially during January and February when the snow and ice are strong enough to carry people’s weight. Skiing, skating, downhill skiing, snowmobile driving, downhill sledging and ice hockey are popular pastimes you can enjoy during winters. In northern Finland you can also go and try riding a dog sledge! Those can be really fun if the weather allows it.
After a long day in the cold a sauna is a must, especially a wood-heated sauna. The heat, the wooden planks, dim lights, sound of crackling fire and a sauna drink (of your choice) will make you feel very relaxed. It is enjoyable both going alone and together with friends and/or family. I haven’t met a Finn who has never been to a sauna, so it’s quite an essential experience.
My favourite holiday! The celebrating of joulu (Christmas) doesn’t differ from other countries that much, except have a thing called ’pikkujoulu’ = ’little Christmas’ which is celebrated on the last Saturday of November. It’s a non-formal party day held by organisations, companies or just among friends, with some Christmas treats like gingerbread biscuits and glögi (mulled wine).
The Christmas we spend with family and/or friends in our homes, decorated with many Christmas lights to lighten up the darkess. We share the presents on the Christmas Eve (or Joulupukki = Santa Claus does!), take a joulusauna, and make and eat lots of good food. Joulupöytä (Yule table, a table the Christmas food is served on) usually includes ham, many different casseroles, fish, cranberry jam, steamed potatoes, salads, cinnamon buns, gingerbread biscuits, glögi, boxes of chocolate, green marmelade balls and many other. I also play a lot of tabletop games and card games, visit my grandmother and watch lots of movies with my family.
Personally, the winter is awesome until the New Year’s Eve; after that it starts to feel like it never ends. I’m glad we have all four seasons!
December in Helsinki: