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About Finnish Christmas & Nature

Finnish Christmas

Christmas is an important time for us to rest and spend time with our friends and family. It’s one of the most important holidays for Finns, I might say. People usually take at least a couple days off and many travel during that time. Usually to spend Christmas with relatives or to be somewhere northern to surely have snow on Christmas eve.

The tradition of a Finnish Christmas is, among other things, to give the gifts on Christmas eve, on the 24th of December. The eve is the most important day overall, usually. Of course the traditions vary in different families and yearly, due to work, for example. So, I speak from my own experiences and on the base what I’ve heard from other Finns.

Rice porridge in the making


Traditionally the 24th day starts with rice porridge and cinnamon. Sometimes we hide one almond in the porridge. It depends on the family what is the result of finding the almond. Sometimes it means that the one finding it can open one present or s/he has to sing a Christmas song. At our grandparents it means that the one finding the almond must do the dishes. So oddly, sometimes the almond is left undiscovered. 




Finnish Christmas food
Finnish Christmas dessert









As Christmas is a religious celebration, many Finns go to Christmas church on the 24th. Usually in the morning, sometimes during the day or at least to light the candles on the family graves. Many go to church’s events to sing Christmas songs before the eve as well.

The day is usually full of waiting and preparations for the night. Children’s task is to decorate the Christmas tree. Some do this before the eve though. We tend to dress up a bit fancy for the eve’s dinner. The traditional main dish is ham or turkey and different casseroles. In addition to these there are other food as well. In our family we eat lamb, fish and loaf. My personal favorite is roe, sour cream and red onion. For dessert we usually have cheese and fruits. As Finns tend to drink on the celebrations, it’s normal to have at least mild drunkenness from the wine and dessert drinks.  

If you have your own sauna, it’s normal to go to the Christmas sauna, naturally. If Santa Claus didn’t bring the gifts during the night between 23th and 24th, it’s expected to happen before the night of the 24th. It’s very common that families have a Santa visiting every year, especially in families with small children. Usually the Santa is the same person every year, someone who happens to be away every time Santa visits. Some people hold on this tradition even when the children have grown up and everyone already knows who plays the Santa’s role.

Christmas three & presents

The most awaited part is to give and get presents. It happens usually after dinner and lasts approximately one hour. The older I have grown the more joy I get of giving presents and from the time together with my family. And good food, of course. The 25th is a very laid-back day to spend with the family as well. We usually play board games and children play with their new toys. The food on the 25th is leftovers from the eve and of course all the chocolate and other delicacies all around the house. Additionally, one tradition many young people have is to go out with friends on the night of the 25th.



Finnish nature

The nature of Finland is one of my favorite things. Here we have something that every other country doesn’t – the variation with the seasons and the variability in the nature between the south and north. One upside in particular, to my mind, is the big size, tranquility and purity of most of our forests. We have our problems in Finland as well, of course, as clearcuttings. Still, overall, I think our nature is in good condition and there are good laws to protect the animals. When I was a kid and we lived in the countryside, I got to see a lot of animals while playing outside, mooses and foxes for example. 


Nowadays, walking in the forest or going to a cabin in the wilderness is an important way for many people to lower the stress caused by hectic work and school life. Even more than before, I think. Nature comes in the first priorities for many Finns.

Again speaking from own experiences, I really enjoy the nature of Lapland and Central Finland. The following pictures are from Central Finland, Hyrynsalmi from last summer. It’s the place for yearly Swamp Soccer World Championships, Suopotkupallo. Speaking of which, that is an event which wraps up a lot of Finnish culture. People playing football in a swamp in the middle of nowhere, usually drunk every day of the tournament. However, one of the very best parts of the yearly Swamp Soccer is to watch the sunrise at the lake after the tournament.



Finnishness to me is…


Finnish people have very close relationships with nature. It can be observed that Finns prefer to live close by it. Sport activities, spending free time, walking and wondering, family time – all are done in contact with nature. But Finns not only use the nature, they also take care of it and understand the importance of keeping it safe and clean.

Picture taken from

I love winter time in Finland, it always feels exciting and magical. It is the perfect time to travel to the north of Finland to visit Santa Claus park and to see the northern lights.

Picture taken from


Going to sauna if one of my favourite part of Finnish culture. I myself go to sauna at least once a week. It is a perfect place to relax and to get warm =)  It is very interesting phenomena, that sauna can be found in almost every building and even inside apartments.

Picture taken from


What is finnishness (to me)?

When I think about finnish people and Finland, two things pop into my head: our beautiful nature and our pure desire not to communicate with each other. Here’s what I mean.

Folk of few words

If you encounter a finnish person, you might notice that, generally speaking, we are not a very chatty people. We usually don’t like to chit-chat and so we try our best to avoid any situations where we might have to do that. For example in the bus, we would much prefer to sit alone than next to someone and this is why we will try to sit on an empty row if we possibly can. Of course when we do talk we are very polite and kind, we just might sound a little rude with our short answers and overall awkwardness in that situation.

All of four (but mostly one)

Seasons. We get them all (even if we don’t really want to). We get the snow when it’s winter so we can play some winter sports, we get the heat in the summer so we can go to the beach and get a tan (or seriously sun-burned). We get the color shifting trees, shining on us all the colors of Fall, and we get the long lost bird singing and sun after a gruesomely long and dark winter. We finnish people tend to say that we have winter most of the year and that our summers last for about a month. Of course that is not the case, we just feel like it. All in all, we get to witness all the seasons of the year and to me that is a blessing.



What finnishness means to me?


First thing that comes to my mind about Finland and finnishness is nature and its four seasons. My favourite seasons are spring and summer when everything blooms and people become more cheery. There is also lots of different events on summer and life feels carefree.

Every time I travel some place else, it is always pleasure to come back in Finland. We have fresh nordic air and there is small crime rate in Finland so it is safe to live in there. Also my family and friends lives there, so it is important place to be.


Second thing which comes on my mind about finnishness is sauna. It is perfect way to relax  especially when you are spending your time in summer cottage or during cold winter. Most of the apartments in Finland are having a sauna too, so you can relax in your own place too. It is probably the most Finnish thing you can do.

Fazer and Salmiakki

Fazer is one of the largest corporations of Finnish food history. The most famous is probably Fazer blue milk chocolate, called “Fazerin sininen” in Finnish. It is one of my favourite candy to eat. Fazer is also known about different salmiakki products. There is also fazer cafe’s all around in Finland.

There is A Kenyan in Town!

So, my name is Sylvia Barasa, a Kenyan. My Kenyan culture, from food to the way of living is very different from the Finnish culture. When I fast moved here, I ate fast foods almost everyday. The food culture here was so different. Kenyan food from coat to the west is full of flavor and taste, this here was very different.


The way we interact with each other is so different as well, we talk to each other we say hello to everybody, we quickly bond and share what we have. It was so different here as in Finland there is a huge culture of ME, and that was a bit disturbing.

Kenyans drink alcohol, Fins do maybe just a bit more than us, but the difference is this, if I invite my friend out for a drink, the bill is on me!, if a Fin invites you out on a date , or for a drink, in most cases, bring your ,money with you!


According to my culture, as from the age of 8 or even 6, kids are already aware of their bodies and already cant just be naked before anybody. Even after bathing, a 7 year old will easily ask for privacy to put on clothes.

This is what I have grown up with for the last more than 20 years.

As a woman, I cant basically be seen naked by anybody unless we are intimate with that person, leave alone my parents! in fact that’s a taboo especially for fathers. So this is me in Finland, on my second day, my Host Family, very excited and eager to show me the culture,

They organized a surprise welcome party for me,  A sauna with some With my Host Family, they ask me to join them in Sauna, that was ok, until I was informed that we all have to be very Naked.

This was my experience of Finnishness at least to the extreme.


Crazy ice hockey country and beautiful summer nights

First things that came to my mind was ice hockey and summer nights. This summer I got the chance to spend more time outside in the evenings and I learned to appreciate beautiful sunsets that Finland has to offer.

Ice hockey

When it’s spring time and time for Ice Hockey World Championship, Finnish people tend to go a little bit crazy. There’s of course other competitions such as olympics, World Cup, Junior World Championship of Hockey etc. Olympics being the most important of all. Still, last spring when we won the World Championship, as much as 3,14 million people were watching the broadcast and that is quite a lot for country that has a population of 5,5 million people overall. I can’t imagine how hardly we would celebrate if we would win the Olympics some day..  But the great thing about Finnish people being so passionate about ice hockey, is that it really brings people together. That is actually quite interesting and funny, considering that we are usually little bit reserved when meeting new people.

Beautiful summer nights

This summer I got the chance to spend more time with my friends during the evening time compared to last years and I truly realised how beautiful our sunsets and summer evenings overall are. I kind of feel bad that I haven’t been enjoying sunsets as much as I could’ve before and that I’ve been told plenty of times to enjoy the nature more. The nature around us makes sunsets more appealing but I did really enjoy the warm feeling that summer nights gave me. It’s not all about the sunsets though, I think the feeling that warm sunset and beautiful view gives (and the company, of course) is unbeatable. Calm beautiful summer nights are like Finnish people, warm and beautiful when you get to know them.

My few thoughts about Finland.

Juuso Johansson

Finnishness: A 2 years experience

Finnishness to me as a foreigner is:



Every winter, for around half a year, this land of Finland will be covered in white sheets of snow that gets annoying after a few months, yet it is beautiful and soothing to see.



It’s something that surrounds me every day, I live right next to a forest and a lake when this is the so called second biggest city in Finland. I am sure that this is not only me and if that is the case then nature is literally a representation of Finnishness. It soothing and nice, both in winter and summer and it just around the corner.


I find Finnish people very proud of their race to a point that they become offensive sometimes. In a foreigner’s perspective I think this is such a great thing to be so proud of your race and live happily amongst it. Yet as a foreigner that got offended, I think there are other ways to be proud of your race offending a group of foreign students.


It is the most Finnish thing to do and almost every family or apartment building has one. It’s a luxury in other countries yet it’s the simplest form of entertainment and relaxation of the country. It’s honestly better in winter.

Getting drunk

A Finnish person before and after getting drunk is two people, they are so quiet and shy before getting drunk and after that they become the nicest and funniest people in the world. There are always exceptions which are alcoholics but generally the same person can change so much after a drink.

Personal Space

I am definitely enjoying a    nd accepting this as a foreigner, everyone respects each other personal space and to be honest it’s very quiet on the streets or anywhere. It feels nice to walk around with your own personal space considering growing up in a metropolitan where personal space doesn’t exist. Then again, too much personal space leads to being distant which also is a very Finnish problem.



What Finnishness is to me?


Finnish people are really proud of our nature, and I think it is really great because we should be proud of it.  We spend a lot of time in the nature. Going to the nature and the importance of it has been taught us since we were kids. Example by going to the forest for camping and hiking in a school. Nature is something that we respect and cherish.


We are ice hockey country definitely, when the world championship starts we go crazy. It has never been a question that are we football or icehockey country. Every year when the ice hockey world championship starts, people get together and watch the games together. Ice hockey is something that brings people together in Finland.


This is one of my favorite things about Finland. Everybody knows that Finland is very known from the sauna, but nobody knows how important it really is to very many finn. Including me. It is place where to enjoy company of friends or family, and it is also a place where you can be all by yourself.

Nature: a part of Finnish identity

There are a lot of things that people relate to Finnishness, the image of introverted people who like their personal space and sauna after a long day of work. I wanted to focus on Finns and our relationship to nature, as well as my own relationship towards it.

Historically Finnish people have always had a strong relationship with nature. Before the spread of Christianity, Finns practiced polytheism, meaning they believed in many different gods, most of them somehow related to nature. There were many gods, creatures and spirits that ancient people believed in. The most important one is probably Ukko, who was the supreme god, in control of the weather, crops and thunder. Tapio was the god of forests from whom hunters asked for good luck in their hunt. Ahti was the god of the sea and people prayed to him for good luck in fishing. (Kalevalanassikat 2014)

There is a deep respect towards nature and the animals that live in the forest. A great example of one of those creatures is Finland’s national animal, the bear, which is featured in the folklore epic called Kalevala. (Weaver 2014) Bears are seen as the most powerful, mythical creatures that live in Finland. A long time ago when a bear was killed, there would be a special celebration called “karhunpeijaiset”. During the celebration there is a deep respect for the killed animal and almost nothing goes to waste, because that would be very disrespectful to the spirit of the bear. Finns have come up with many other names for bears partly for respect, and partly for the fear that the king of the forest will hear its name being spoken and bring bad luck to whoever spoke its name. Even the typical word for bear in Finnish, “karhu”, is not the original word for a bear. (Taivaannaula 2014) Of course, today these traditions have changed but from my own knowledge if an animal is killed not much will go to waste because hunters still respect the animals they kill.

I believe that due to urbanisation and the growth of cities, the relationship between people, especially young people, and nature is weakening. However, interacting with nature is still a huge part of peoples’ past time. From early on children get to develop a bond with nature, some of this comes through physical education in schools where kids are, among other things, taught to ski on an open field and orientate in the forest with a map and a compass. Both of which I was taught in elementary school and I learned skills from both activities that have helped me later on in life as well, whether I was skiing with friends during the winter holidays or trekking in Lapland with a compass in my hand. The photograph below is from one of my trekking trips in Lapland.

Another way that we Finns nourish our relationship to the environment is by exercising our every man’s rights, (in Finnish “jokamiehenoikeudet”) which allows you to enjoy many aspects of the outdoors. This includes the freedom to roam the countryside, go berry picking, foraging, and fishing with a line and rod. Of course, you must be respectful to the environment (no littering, picking protected plants or disturb nesting birds) and stay out from peoples’ yards. Many people go pick their favourite berries, such as bilberries and cowberries among others, as well as foraging for mushrooms this time of year. It is a great past time that many families and friends do every fall, and even if you don’t find the berries or mushrooms you were looking for, it is a great way to hang out, get some exercise and enjoy fresh air. If you wish to learn more about Finland’s every man’s rights, there is a link at the end of this blog post.

Not only is nature great place for doing all sorts of physical exercise, it also increases our mental well-being. Research shows that being in nature lowers blood pressure, decreases stress, and increases happiness. (mielenterveystalo n.d.) For my own part I can say that when I have gone trekking, the everyday worries vanish almost completely, and my mind feels light and my thoughts clear from stress. Whenever I feel stressed about something my immediate reaction is always to go outside, get fresh air and walk or cycle in the forest, perhaps along the shoreline.

Finland’s nature is a source of pride for Finns and based on a study conducted by the Association of Finnish Work, the majority (51% of Finns) feel that nature is the biggest source of pride for us. According to the study almost half of Finns’ ideal mental landscape is a forest, the second most common mental landscape is that of the sea. (Viher-ympäristöliitto 2017) My ideal mental landscape has always been of the sea or a lake, probably because I grew up next to the sea and there is something about living next to it, this great openness and freshness that comes from it that I really appreciate. Another reason for my mental landscape being that of the seashore might be because my family’s summer cottage is right next to the sea. In Finland it is very common that families own their own summer cottage which is a place for relaxation during the holidays and to go swimming and to the sauna, of course.

I believe nature is a core part of Finnish peoples’ identity. It is reflected in the ancient peoples’ beliefs of gods, creatures and spirits that were believed to roam the forests and it is reflected even today when people spend time outdoors, perhaps picking mushrooms with their friends or family. It is reflected in my eyes as I walk through the forest and smile when I hear a bird singing.

More information on every man’s rights:

Everyman’s rights


Kalevalanassikat. Suomen muinaiset jumalat. 2014. Published 31.10.2014. Read on 30.9.2019.
Mielenterveystalo. n.d. Luonnon vaikutus hyvinvointiin. Read on 10.9.2019.
Taivaannaula. 2014. Karhunpaijaiset. Published 31.1.2014. Read on 10.9.2019.
Viher-ympäristöliitto. 2017. Luonto on suomalaisille ylpeyden aihe. Published 30.5.2017. Read on 6.9.2019.
Weaver, F. 2014. Iconic Finnish Nature Symbols Stand Out. Published August 2014. Read on 13.9.2019.


When I am asked of typical aspects of Finland and Finnishness, the first things that come to my mind are sauna and nature.


Sauna is likely the best known part of Finnish culture around the world. There is no better place to relax after a strenuous day or to warm up on a cold winter day than a 100° hot sauna. Whereas a sauna is considered as a luxury in most countries, it is completely normal in Finland, which is proven by the fact that there are about 2 million saunas in Finland, even though Finland only has a population of 5.3 million. Most houses/apartments are equipped with a sauna which is pretty unique when comparing that to other European countries. In my opinion the best sauna experience is staying in a summer cottage by a lake, when you can mix sauna sessions with an occasional round of swimming in the lake.


Finnish nature is unique and known for its forests and lakes. Around 78% of the land is covered by forest and around 10% by lakes and other waters. So regardless of where in Finland you live, the distance to lakes and especially to a forest is usually very short. Also, the mix of forests and lakes makes the Finnish landscape a beautiful one. It’s amazing! Especially when you’re standing by a lake (e.g. Saimaa), you will usually have a great view over the lake and the adjacent forests.

Jonathan Hucke