Hi 5, Finnish Christmas Traditions

It’s that time of the year again when Mr. and Mrs. Claus dust off their overalls and prepare for the big day. Hold on to your Santa Hats (Tonttulakki) and join me exploring Christmas traditions here in Finland.

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Text Marcelo Goldmann

Glögi And The Mystery of The Almond in The Porridge

On Christmas Eve you crave something warm to get your heat up, and what better way than with a hot cup of Glögi. It is similar to German and Austrian Glühwein and it can be served with raisins and almonds. You can get it ready-made at any food store in Oulu – just warm it up in your favourite pot. The Christmas rice porridge (riisipuuro) with hidden almond is another tradition. Whoever happens to find the almond will be the receiver of good fortune. In the middle ages, a coin or a bean would be hidden in the food instead, and whoever had the bean would decide who among the guests would be providing entertainment for all the other guests.

Stealing A Tree

An exciting adventure: sneaking into your neighbor’s forest and stealing a Christmas tree. I don’t recommend you trying this, however. That is, unless you know the owner of the forest and ask for permission; in which case it’s not technically stealing but you can pretend to make it more exciting.

The Snowman

No Finnish Christmas would ever be complete without the rerun of The Snowman on TV. Based on the popular children’s book by the same name which was illustrated in 1978 in the U.K., The Snowman was adapted to a 26 minute animation for television in 1982, and has since become a staple of Christmas with its touching story and gorgeous cinematics. The awesome song that plays in the middle of the animation, Walking in the Air, is composed by Howard Blake and more recently covered by the one and only Nightwish.

Christmas Calendar

One of the most fun things to do is to have a Christmas calendar, which normally is a rectangular box of chocolates with which not only you get to count the days left until Christmas Eve, but also you open the “doors” on certain days and you retrieve a present. It’s like Christmas Eve every day.

Joulupukki

Christmas wouldn’t be complete without our beloved old Nordic man with the big belly, the Santa Claus or as he is known here – Joulupukki. One of the origin stories from Joulupukki dates back to the 17th century and was previously known Nuuttipukki. Young men would dress in inverted fur jackets and leather masks and would go from house to house demanding the leftover foods and alcoholic beverages. If they were denied the goodies, they would threaten to trash the place. Nobody knows how the story went from a food stealer to a jolly gift giver but if I had to take a guess, I would say Santa had some rowdy young days and then reformed himself.

Published 9.12.2015 in 10/2015

Marcelo Goldmann

A doctoral student in chemical engineering at the University of Oulu. "Life is like a rubber duck, you gotta keep it afloat to see its splendor." Instagram: @sekultamies

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