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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.

 

 

Country of thousands of lakes

Finns are humble. They don’t boast about what they have done. Actually they rather underestimate their skills. Example, almost everyone knows Angry birds, but only few know they are made in Finland. Because Finns keep it low. Finns are also a bit quiet and thinks carefully what they want to say. Most of us are better listener than speaker. So don’t think we are rude if we aren’t much about small talk.

Nature
Finnish nature is so beautiful with thousands of lakes, large archipelago and lovely coniferous forests. We love to spend time in nature and have some activities over a year. At winter we like to go play ice hockey, snowboarding, skiing or just playing in the snow. At summer when the sun begins to set later and later, Finns spend a lot of time in their summer cottages with their family or friends. Summer is also time for outdoor activities like boating, swimming, fishing, playing football, golf and almost everything you like to do. There is so many possibilities for different kind of activities in Finland.

Food
Finnish food is one of the most safeties and healthiest culinarians in the world. But Finnish traditional foods taste don’t tickle foreigners taste buds…

Here is one one example, when Gordon Ramsay is testing traditional Finnish food:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4S-8gF9GFJo

 

How I see Finland

In my opinion, Finland is one of the best places to stay, when it comes to conditions, the standard and the quality of life. Especially elderly people and children are treated really well in this country. In general people are extremely honest and encourage other people to have the same courtesy. The stereotype about Finnish honesty is purposeful and truthful, and Finns like to highlight it. For example if you lose your wallet here, you have way better chances at getting it back, than in many other countries. I personally have had an experience of forgetting my bank card in the ATM machine and then getting a call from a stranger that found it to come and collect it. You can’t not respect that. As it was said in another blog post, I agree that ”honesty is the foundation of a safe and functional society.” (Sahamies, J. 2019 blogi)

(https://adage.com/creativity/work//38028)

In addition to all the good benefits and support you can get from the government, Finland also provides exceptional educational opportunities. Here you can basically educate yourself to become whatever you want as long as you have the motivation and the dedication to do it, the doors are open. People from all over the world come here for the education opportunities and in some cases may even get a job and stay here. Most of the exchange students I have spoken to, have said that they love it here. The only negative aspects were the weather conditions and sometimes the food.

(https://www.tuni.fi)

Why the food? Well, Finland isn’t really known as the most food oriented country even though there are some amazing Finnish dishes, which will make your mouth water. Still, because Finnish people tend to settle for less, they don’t make a big deal out of a meal. Salt & pepper is all you need for seasoning.

Mostly the food is considered to be healthy and versatile. To people like myself who are picky with the food, it may seem a bit boring at times. People from countries where food is held in a high standard, would probably also want to spice it up a bit, since they are more used to the strong rich flavors.

(https://finnishcrashcourse.wordpress.com/2016/02/03/food-culture-in-finland-tradition-habits-and-particular-dishes-part-1/) Meatballs with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam.

Finnish pastries

A topic that isn’t much talked about is Finnish pastries. Finland has got some really unique sweet recipes that you can’t find almost anywhere else in the world. In this blog post I’ll introduce you to a few of them.

Tippaleipä
Tippaleipä is a pretty odd looking pastry that you traditionally eat on May Day (1st of May). Tippaleipä is a funnel cake and the name means “drip bread” which refers to how it is made. You make them by dripping cake batter into hot oil and serve them covered with powdered sugar and sima, which is a lemon-flavored mead. Tippaleipä can be very messy to eat so be careful while snacking on it! 🙂

Lusikkaleipä
Literally translated as spoon cookie, lusikkaleipä is a fine textured buttery cookie that is filled with jam or marmalade and covered in sugar. The name of the cookie comes from how it is shaped; you press the batter into a deep oval teaspoon and form the who halves of the cookie.

Lätty and pannukakku
Lätty (also known as lettu or ohukainen in Finnish)  is something you can find in almost every country but every part of the world makes them differently. Lätty is a thin pancake that is very popular in Finland. You could translate it as a crepe, but classic crepes are much thinner and made of a less buttery batter than hot the Finnish version is made. Pannukakku translates directly as pancake, but the way Finnish people make pannukakku differs from many countries; in Finland you fill the whole oven tray in batter and cook it in the oven.

Runebergintorttu
The Runeberg torte is a Finnish pastry that is flavored with almonds and topped with raspberry jam and icing. The pastry is named after the Finnish poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804-1877) and are sold in Finnish grocery stores from the beginning of January to Runeberg’s birthday on February 5th when they’re traditionally also served in schools across the country. It is said that it was Runeberg’s wife Fredrika who created this desert and the very first version of it was made out of scraps she could find in her kitchen.

Korvapuusti
Korvapuusti is Finland’s version of cinnamon rolls and the shape of this pastry is unique to our country. Where some countries like to drizzle icing on top of their cinnamon buns, here we like to top them with pearl sugar. Fun fact: the 4th of October is the national korvapuusti day in Finland.

Joulutorttu
Joulutorttu, meaning Christmas tart, is a traditional Christmas food in Finland. The jam in the middle of the pastry is usually plum jam. The traditional shape resembles a star or a windmill but you can get really creative when making them.

There are many other varieties of traditional Finnish pastries (hint: google pulla and mokkapala for example,  and don’t blame me if you start drooling). Why aren’t these sweets known around the world? I feel like Finnish people don’t really like to brag and and since we live so secluded from the rest of the world these pastries haven’t really been recognized in many countries. Promoting Finnish pastries is something we should definitely try to do more, go and tell the world about the greatness of pulla and korvapuusti!

I hope this post inspired you to do some more research about Finnish food or maybe try baking something yourself! All images have been found from Google’s image search. Didn’t bake any of them myself, sorry. 🙁

FINNISH CUISINE

Finnish food respects traditions. There are few traditional dish and they are rarely eaten on a daily basis. These are often regional, associated with older generations or confined to a specific holiday. Example: Mämmi (It’s traditional sweet dish, which especially eaten at Easter. Its mainly made from water, rye malt and rye flour.)

Most popular meats in Finland are pork, beef, chicken and duck. In Lapland, the greatest delicacy is the sautéed reindeer.

Arctic wild berries are distinctively featured in Finnish cuisine with their strong and unique flavor and high nutrient content. In summer you can eat fresh berries and dried or froze at other times of year. Its very common to go picking berries straight from the forests. You can use berries in pies, smoothies or eat as such. Also various species of mushrooms grow in abundance in Finnish forests. Chanterelles and ceps pop up after Midsummer and are popular in the whole country. Mushrooms are used in sauces, soups, stews, pie fillings or simply fried in a pan. In winter they are preserved by pickling or drying.

Finnish bread is mostly dark and fiber-rich rye bread. Breads are made from grains like barley, oat, rye and wheat or by mixing different grits and flours. One popular and oldest traditional pasties is Karelian pasties. Most familiar and common version is has a thin rye crust with a filling of rice porridge. Karelian pasties are served with spread made of butter and hard boiled eggs. Here’s a video where they show, how to make Karelian pasties.

Traditional Finnish breakfast includes porridge. Rolled oats, rye or multi-grain porridge are most common to see in Finnish breakfast table. Water and coffee are the most common drinks in Finland, but during meals milk and sour milk are also popular. Finnish people drink coffee often several times a day and served everywhere and tea is available in most homes.

 

Excuse me but I´m Finnish.

Things I got first in mind when talking about Finland:

Usually midsummer is rainy. No matter what. Even when the forecast tells you to get your bikinis, tan lotion and cold beverages ready – it is definitely going to rain. There is always a possibility to have a rainy midsummer.

For finns, the summer is warm when temperature raises above 20 degrees. I´m from west coast of Finland and it is always windy. The lack of mountains or even hills further enhances the effect of wind. But when the sun shines, it really shines. Still, the temperature rarely goes above 27 degrees.

Finland is a long land and when theres sunny in the north, there could be a blizzard in the east and on west there might be raining. You can never trust the forecast if you are travelling along Finland. There´s always a chance to get disapointed.Finnish nature is breathtaking. Nature is like big beatuful painting which is changing in every day and in every season. The colours are so bright, the lakes, rivers or the sea are very blue when the sun shines. In wintertime the outdoor living maybe is not so desirable, but the feeling after you were out and did some exercis

ing or just were walking around in the nature and then get inside to warm up or even in sauna it is definetly something that should be seen or tried when there are visitors from other countries in Finland.

What being a finn actually means to me is that there is always available good, healhty and fresh food, e.g. I love Carelian pies, Mämmi (porridge based on rye that is both bitter and sweet), different kind of porriges like oatmeal for breakfast. I usually bake during weekends when I have time to put my heart into it. I like to bake sweet buns with eyes of butter and sugar in the middle of them.

In the Autumns I usually go with my parents to the woods to harvest berries. We harvest mostly blueberries and cowberries. We also keep our eyes peeled for mushrooms, especially for chanterelles. It´s normal to have a large freezer which is full of garden berries and harvested berries from forests. Jams made of fruits like apple, strawberries and pears or plums are also very popular cause it includes the taste of summer even in the middle of snowy and cold winter.  Nothing beats hot oatmeal with fresh berries sprinkled on top of it. It really makes the day.

all the pictures are mine

p.s. All the pictures are mine.

With very finnish regards: Moikka

Alli