Christmas in Finland is known to be one of the most memorable and unique winter celebrations. From its Santa Claus Village, to classic dishes and delicious desserts, to the variety of Christmas gifts given, and of course, to the presence of snow—the country is full of festive traditions that have become popular all over the world.
For Finns though, Christmas mainly means a time of relaxation. Everyone wants to forget everyday worries for a while and spend time with family and other loved ones. On Christmas Eve, Christmas peace is declared.
An old custom that originated in Sweden, but now only takes place in Finland. The oldest and most popular peace declaration takes place in Turku, Finland’s old capital. A big audience gathers in front of the old great square of the town to watch the declaration.
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Other Finns gather together and watch it on television with their families. It is a Christmas tradition for many families. Of course, everyone has their own Christmas traditions, many of which also include Christmas porridge with almonds, a special holiday meal, a visit from Santa Claus, a Christmas sauna, and, in recent years, a relaxing Christmas bath under the starry sky.
In Finland, it is usual for people to cut their own Christmas trees if they live in the countryside. They bring it home and decorate it with lights, balls, and garlands. Other decorations that go around the home, are little Christmas elves, Santa Claus figurines, little reindeer made from straws tied with a red string, and finally, candelabrums that are placed on the windows.
The reindeer are nowadays just decorations, but in the past, they were believed to drive evil spirits away. Outside if the weather is cold, they make glacial or snow lanterns or buy ready ones and decorate their yards with light.
Christmas Eve is celebrated in a calm manner, and there is no absence of food. In the morning everyone gathers together to enjoy porridge for breakfast. Each family has their own way of making the porridge, others enjoy it with just cinnamon or sugar, others with butter, but some families like to add almonds.
When it comes to the main table, Christmas dishes are crowned with a huge Christmas ham, which is placed on the table in the heart of the main course.
Finns love casseroles during Christmas, and usually, they will enjoy carrot, liver, or a traditional Finnish rutabaga. As side dishes rosolli salad and gravlax are served. For dessert, plum pudding or puff pastries shaped like stars or angels, filled with different jam flavors, are enjoyed.
Another greatly enjoyed snack during Christmas is gingerbread cookies. Finns love making their own gingerbread houses, but those that are not so good with handicrafts, buy one from a Christmas market. Now, Christmas markets in Finland are nothing grand like in Germany.
They usually take place inside schools or small community centers. The atmosphere is friendly and homey, and you can buy gingerbread cookies, handicrafts, mulled wines, or even take part in lotteries, where you can win your Christmas ham for free. Although most markets are small ones, there is Tuomaan Markkinat in Helsinki. It is Helsinki’s oldest market and they have yearly 300 000 visitors.
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Undoubtedly, one of the most iconic places to visit during the Christmas season in Finland is Santa Claus Village. Located in the city of Rovaniemi, in the Arctic Circle, Santa’s home is a must for every visitor. In addition to meeting the legend himself, there is a reindeer farm, post office, snowmobiles in the village, and many other activities that one can take part in.
There are also many restaurants inside the village for different budgets, from fast food to gourmet. The village is a true representation of the enchanting Christmas spirit and a reminder of childhood memories. If you are interested in taking part in any of the activities in the village during Christmas, you will have to book them way in advance.
Finns are not very religious people, but at Christmas, the churches are full. Beautiful Christmas carols sung by choirs create a beautiful atmosphere inside the churches. The atmosphere continues outside on the church grounds, where candles illuminate cemeteries, giving warmth and light to the memories of our loved ones.
At Christmas, Finns are also overwhelmed by the desire to help. They give support to minorities, and feed birds and forest animals. Their wish is to create a peaceful, but happy and joyful Christmas for everyone.