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.
When 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.
The 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 culture 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.
When the summer is coming and snow is melting the nature wakes up and so does the Finns, too. We make plans for the summer 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.
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 eat 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 summer 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.
In 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.
In Finland the autumn is a time for a new start, like probably 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.
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 public 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.
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.