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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.



Finnish celebrations

For me, the best thing about Finland is our holidays.

New year’s eve is dedicated to parties, foods, drinks, friends and of course sparklers and fireworks.Friends gather around to have a good time, many people rent a cottage or host parties. Most of our money is disappeared in the sky thanks to fireworks.

Easter is dedicated more to family and dinners. Stores are full or Easter eggs, decorations and of course famous mämmi. As a child, it’s even more fun because you go to this folk tradition (virpoa) and you prepare your outfit and birches for it.

After Easter comes the first of May celebration. All the graduated put their graduation caps on and visit the markets to buy balloons and licorice. After that in some cities, you go to watch new engineer freshman’s getting their dew and go to parks for a picnic. Later on, students gather around with their overalls on to parties. The next morning is dedicated to brunch.

Juhannus the midsummer celebration is the biggest thing you can imagine to happen in Finland in the summer. Younger generation rent cottages, book hotel rooms or wild ones just take tents with them and gather around to these huge 3-day festivals with biggest Finnish artists. Calmer people go to cottages by the river, enjoy barbecue and funny “Olympic” games.

Independence day is dedicated to everything related to Finland. In the morning you watch Tuntematon sotilas (“the Unknown Soldier”) movie from tv and the evening you spent watching Independence day reception from presidential palace admiring beautiful dresses and dances while eating Fazer’s chocolate.

Preparation for Christmas starts early. Stores get filled with Christmas chocolates and decorations. Towns become Christmassy with trees, lights and shop windows. Christmas eve on 24th of December is the main day. Sauna and rice porridge are part of traditions as are also watching this television program where children call to Santa Claus and of course Snowman film. People visit the graveyard to ignite candles for the people passed away. Big Christmas dinners with ham, salmon and different casseroles are enjoyed with families and some visit church in the night.

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”. That is how Andy Williams describes Christmas in his song released in 1963.

Finland is located in the Northern Hemisphere. Winter is the longest season in Lapland. It begins in the end of october and ends in May. In southern Finland winter lasts for about four months. After a long, cold and dark fall first snow turns Finland into winter wonderland. Well, sometimes into a wet and slushy wonderland too. Days are very short and in Lapland sun doesn’t rise in three months. Temperatures varies from +5 celsius to -35 celsius. Winter is also the best season to see Northern Lights.

Finland’s Independence Day and Christmas holidays will give a break from work and studies. It’s a good time to celebrate, enjoy of the beautiful nature and eat well. Additionally students have a winter holiday in February so they can enjoy winter weather and winter sports. In winter you can enjoy activities like ice-skating, cross country skiing and downhill skiing. Thousands of lakes in Finland will be frozen in winter. You can go walking, skiing, ice-skating, ice fishing or even drive a car on ice. The bravest will go swimming in an ice hole. Ice will be melting in midsummer in the Northern part of Finland. Or you can be at home in front of a fireplace enjoying a hot drink wearing the coziest clothes and woolen stocks.

Finland’s Independence Day is a national public holiday held on 6th of December. Many festivities are being kept all around Finland. In the evening the Presidential Independence Day reception is being broadcasted from the Presidential Palace. Independence day is all about respecting veterans and being grateful for our beautiful country.

As we all know Santa Claus lives in Korvatunturi, Finland. Christmas Eve is being celebrated on 24th of December. It includes eating lots of traditional Christmas foods and sparing time with family. Santa Claus delivers gifts in Christmas Eve. Many Finnish people goes to church and visits graveyards.

When I think of Finland I can see a beautiful landscape of snowy nature. To me, winter is the best season to enjoy Finnish nature and culture.


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.


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:

The best things of Finland

I think Finland is a very beautiful and great country. I’m proud of my Finnishness and I like to live in Finland. We can seem quite silence and sensitive people but I think it’s only when we don’t know other people. With family and friends that’s not happening. We can have fun and enjoy of the company!


The best thing of the nature of Finland is cleanness. The forests are healthy and the lakes and sea are mostly clean. That makes everything so beautiful! I love being in nature. I can just go to walk to the forest and watch and listen things around me. In Finland you can collect berries and mushrooms where ever you want and also eat those as much as you like.


In Lapland the nature is quite different. There are plenty of mountains and in winter time lot of snow. That is also very beautiful sight and you can enjoy of that for example by doing downhill skiing.



Finns love sauna and I do that also. We use sauna around the year. Many people have a summer cottage and there is always a sauna. So in summertime we go to the cottage and use sauna and swim in a lake or sea. That gets you a very relaxed feeling!

After summer when it gets colder we use sauna at home. Many people do that on weekends on Friday or Saturday. After the working week people relax by using sauna and maybe drinking couple of beers with it.

When we are talking about sauna I must mention also that in Finland it is completely normal to go to sauna with all your family and relative and many times you don’t need any swimsuit! Of course some people have ”women turn” and ”men turn” but not always at all.


Holidays and celebrations

In Finland we have many holidays around the year but the longest and best ones are in summer and at the Christmas time. Those are the holidays when you can really forget the school and works and enjoy of the free time.

The high point of the summer is Midsummer. That is a feast when most of people go to some summer cottage and have fun with relative or friends. Midsummer includes sauna and swimming, good food and drinks, bonfire and maybe Midsummer dances. Midsummer is also the time when the Sun is up longest time in the year so the night is very light.


The Christmas holiday is of course because of the Christmas. That is maybe the biggest feast of the year and Finns are spending it with family and relative. At the Christmas time all stores are closed and everyone is at home. We eat lot of good food, listen to the Christmas songs, give presents and just relax. In families with little children Santa Claus comes to give the presents and that is the high point of the evening. Christmas is very peaceful and I love it!


The Christmas holiday is often still going on at the time of the New Year. That is a feast when we have lot of fireworks and we are celebrating the coming year with the friends.


Emma Itäranta