Tag Archives: winter

The darkness and survival

Let me tell you a little about the cycle of Finnish mood. I am writing this in July, which is the peak of Finnish mental happiness. The dark, long period of coldness and grayness is contrasted with the most beautiful couple of months. Like a lover returning to you from the darkness you once thought had digested her/him. The peak is short but sweet, followed by a positively melancholic autumn which slowly dips you back into the cycle of seasons. Accompanied by a warm, loving embrace telling you that the good times will come again but until then you must find the beauty from places where it´s rarely searched, but where it has learned to survive the harsh environment.

 

The road to true ecstasy is hard and torturous. We call this torturous period the “kaamos aika”, aka the polar night, aka a period of darkness north of the Arctic Circle when the sun does not rise over the horizon. It is still enough to feel the effect if you are just close to the arctic circle. There is a place in southern Finland that got a majestic two hours of sun light in a period of three months from December to February in the winter of 2014. It is within these kind of periods that one might suffer from “kaamosmasennus”, aka winter depression.

There are ways to treat the “kaamosmasennus” but the best one is just to get the hell out of here. If you however don´t have the financial situation to balance this out, you might want to try something out of the ordinary. Embrace that beast of darkness and dig a hole through that frozen lake and go for a swim! I´m not even joking. In a situation like this it is very nice to have a sauna near by to relax your tortured soul. It is called avantouinti (winter swimming). It feels really good to take your body through those extreme temperatures, and when your body feels good your mind feels good. There are places in Finland where people go to do this, if not every day then every week. It buzzes you up and makes you feel alive and relaxed both at the same time. If you are really lucky you might escape into the finish wilderness and heat up a mökki (cottage) which usually includes a sauna by a lake. You will feel super authentic as you heat up the sauna, make a hole in the ice with a chainsaw, get naked and dip yourself into the cold lake. Gaze up at the non light polluted starry sky keeping that nice hot sauna in mind. This is something that keeps me going through the sunless season and something that I miss during the sunshine season.

For me the word Finnishness crystallizes in the four seasons. Finland wouldn’t be Finland without the seasons. They bring out the different sides of the Finns and their character, the nature and the culture.

Winter

IMG_6959When a Finn thinks about a winter, he often imagines an idyllic landscape with snow and frost. We remember that when we were children we could go skating, skiing and snow sliding the whole winter time but that doesn’t necessarily hold true. Especially nowadays the snowy winter is guaranteed only in the middle Finland and in Lapland.

In southern Finland there’s often frost but only a little snow. If it’s snowing heavily it probably also melts quit quickly. The temperatures range between degrees below and above zero and it’s also raining so the roads are very slippery. What we do? We complain about the weather and wish for snow and frost, like in the old days. And then it snows and gets cold (under -20 °C). And what we do? We complain because the cars stuck in the snow and it’s too cold to go jogging outside.

Some Finns living in the southern areas like snow when they want to go out for winter sports or when they wish for white Christmas. In the everyday life it just causes too much trouble. Many people living in the northern parts are so used to the snow that they don’t waste their time complaining about it.

WP_20150207_005The middle winter is quite dark in the whole Finland. The real polar night (the sun doesn’t rise at all) can be seen only in Lapland but the daylight is also quite short in the southern Finland. In addition to that there isn’t necessary snow in the South what makes the view even darker. The weather in the middle winter is often also quite cloudy.

 

 

The cold and dark days have had an influence to our WP_20170121_003culture and customs, too. In the winter the Finns spend more time indoors. We live our everyday life, children go to school, adults go to work. We also celebrate our Independence Day and Christmas quite peacefully. Some may, however, have more hilarious pre-Christmas or New Year’s Eve parties.

The late winter is often the best time for winter sports. Then the days are brighter and warmer and sun is shining more often.

Spring

20070505_0086When the summer is coming and snow is melting the nature wakes up and so does the Finns, too.  We make plans for the IMG-20150316-WA0002summer and enjoy the sunny spring days. Many Finns like to spend time doing garden work or walking in the woods and spotting the first spring flowers. In the spring many pupils and students also have a final stretch at school because the summer holidays often begin already at the end of May.

Summer

In the summer Finns are often more relaxed, spontaneous and cheerful. That may be due to the summer holidays. There’s of course many ways to spend a summer holiday. Some people want to stay in a town. They can go to a café or restaurant and e20080523_0048at at the terrace. Or walk on the town, listen to the busker and go to a park to read a book and sun themselves. Many music festivals gather people around Finland to the towns to enjoy music and the festival atmosphere.

One way to spend a summer holiday is to drive around with a caravan or a motor home. There’s a few caravanners who spend all of their free time on the road but many Finns also hire a caravan and make a one week trip to view Lapland or visit relatives for example. Or instead of a car some Finns choose a motor bike for their road trips.

But certainly one of the most popular things in IMG-20140813-WA0003summer is to go to a summer cottage. Especially many Finns want to spend the “juhannus” in a summer cottage. It’s a midsummer fest and also the day of the Finnish flag.

2014-06-27-287In many summer cottages it isn’t possible to use electricity, running water or indoor toilet. But nowadays the ever growing part of the “cottages” has the similar equipment as the primary homes and they can be used year-round. A lakeside view is a very important thing for many cottagers. In a summer cottage Finns want to enjoy the silence, peace and nature. Some just want to relax, swim and take a sauna, some want to work in the garden. Physical work outside can be a good counterbalance to indoor office work for example.

In the summer there are hundreds and hundreds of different events around Finland. Every weekend there’s something going on. Many little villages seem to be death silent in the winter but in the summer they all have their own little summer festivals. There’s many summer theatres with non-professional actors and actresses. Finns also have many crazy competitions like wife-carrying, rubber boot throwing and swamp soccer.

Autumn

IMG_0538In Finland the autumn is a time for a new start, like IMG-20141016-WA0008probably in many other countries, too. The schools begin after the summer holidays and many children and young people start at a new school with new classmates. Also many adults return to the everyday life and routines. Many social clubs reassemble after the summer break.

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The autumn and late summer is the harvest time for home gardeners. The forests are also full of different kind of berries and mushrooms. In Finland it’s a public right of access to pick them up free of charge.  The IMG_0563public rights of access include also for example swimming, hiking and angling almost anywhere. Of course it isn’t allowed to disrupt others or cause damage to forest or fields.WP_20151015_012

In the autumn when the evenings get darker and the weather get colder it’s again time to prepare yourself for the winter and light some candles.

 

 

 

I hate to generalize. I can’t imagine any characteristic or custom that all the Finns would have in common. Every Finn is an individual and they have a different culture depending on their background and the area where they live. But we all share the seasons. We don’t live in the same way year-round, the seasons influence our lives one way or another.

Finnish Winter

(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!

The Cold

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!

Winter sports

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.

Sauna

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.

Christmas

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:

My experience of Finnishness

Short Comparison of Turku and Tampere

Before describing my personal opinion about Finland, I would like to talk a bit about how it all for me. In the beginning, about 5 years ago, our whole family moved to Turku, from where we were given an opportunity to integrate into Finnish society by learning their language. To be honest, the learning was not easy, but luckily the process became possible for me time by time, by ending up with a fluent knowledge of such incredibly difficult language, and a lot of wonderful Finnish friends who are happy to talk with me in Finnish.

By spending plenty of time in Turku, as well I was sometimes visiting Tampere, which fascinated me equally each time I visited this place. First of all, my personal opinion is that the nature looks a lot more beautiful in Tampere, especially the place between two lakes “pispalanharju”. As well, for some reason I realised that there is more happenings in the centre, than in Turku, in addition the centre of the city looks quite bigger and more interesting!

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Nature

To emphasise a bit more about this topic, I gathered couple of pictures taken by me during my stay in Tampere. Here you can see some of the moments that made me stand for a while and enjoy the happenings. Forests were always really beautiful to me, and it was absolutely difficult to find any kind of garbage around, which made me think that its one of the most cleanest countries in the world.

Of course I did realise that summers here are not really sunny, but I did enjoy winter many times, and actually once I found near supermarket a Finnish man who had an interesting method of transportation by using a carriage and these beautiful four huskies pulling him during the winter time in Tampere. If you ask me, I did not try that, but certainly would want to!

Nevertheless, I am satisfied that my Finnish friends showed me their activities during the winter season, which are mainly snowboarding/skiing and ice-skating. And as well to mention, I learned to ice-skate properly exactly from Finland!

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Sauna

Of course, one of the most important things in Finland is sauna! To be honest, I was really surprised when I realised that you can find a personal sauna almost in every Finnish apartment. This made me love Finland even more; I was literally almost every second day in  sauna!

At the same time, I realised that sauna is one of the methods for Finnish people to socialise, which is mostly supported by a friendly consumption of beer. And actually this is the only way how you can really talk with them about everything, just wait till they get drunk! 😀

As well about the sauna, here you can see a floating sauna. This is obviously one of inventions which only Finnish people can come up to!

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