Christmas is one of the significant days in the calendar when people all over the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. During this time, Christians decorate a spruce tree at home or their workplace and engage in street celebrations. In this article, we delve into the customs of Christmas Eve in Finland.
When is Christmas in Finland?
In Finland, Christmas is celebrated on December 24th. December 24th is a significant day when many families gather for elaborate meals and gift-giving. Gifts are often placed under the tree several days beforehand to excite children and build anticipation for Christmas Eve.
Pre-Christmas Events in Finland
During Christmas, apart from street celebrations and tree decorations, parties and gatherings with friends and colleagues are common. In Finland, another important day in December is December 6th, which marks Finland’s Independence Day. Following that is the celebration of Saint Lucy’s Day on December 13th, considered the precursor to Christmas, honoring Lucia from Syracuse. This day holds significance, particularly in Scandinavian countries and Italy, which is why the Swedish-speaking part of Finland also celebrates it.
In Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Norway, girls dressed in white carry bread and cookies to herald the light of Christ into the world. This ceremony originated in Sweden but eventually became one of Finland’s traditions.
Celebrating Christmas Eve in Finland
In Northern European countries, the most significant celebration occurs on Christmas Eve. Finnish traditions for this time include the Christmas sauna and preparing a feast. Before dinner, Santa Claus traditionally visits homes, checking on children and offering them gifts.
One of the ancient Finnish Christmas traditions is known as Christmas Peace. Since 1300, in Turku, the country’s oldest city, the bells of the cathedral ring on Christmas Eve, and people gather to watch a special Christmas ceremony on television before the festivities commence.
At midnight, many residents gather in front of the town hall in Turku with their families and friends to listen to speeches, while other families watch the ceremony on TV. Christmas Day in Finland is much calmer, and families usually spend time at home.
While Finns aren’t very religious, churches are filled during Christmas. Beautiful hymns are sung, creating a joyful atmosphere. Outside the church, a magical ambiance prevails. Some visit cemeteries and light candles to honor the departed. For the people of Finland, Christmas means supporting birds and forest animals and helping them through the winter.
Traditional Finnish Christmas Dinner
The main Christmas meal in Finland is typically consumed early in the evening. Lutefisk, a traditional appetizer, isn’t as common nowadays. The main dish is usually pork served with mashed potatoes and prepared in a special way. Casserole, containing various vegetables like rutabaga, carrots, and potatoes, is often served alongside the meat, based on personal preferences.
For Christmas dinner in Finland, rainbow trout is quite popular among families, and some might also include turkey on their dinner table. For dessert, rice pudding is served with prune jam. Interestingly, there’s a hidden almond in this dessert, and whoever finds it will have good luck for the coming year.
After dinner, Joulupukki (Santa Claus) is likely to make an appearance. When Santa arrives with his gifts, he asks the people in the house if there are any children present and if they’ve behaved well throughout the year. After hearing a positive response, he presents gifts to the children, making them happy. Once the gifts are opened, it’s time to head to bed, although some people prefer to stay awake the entire night to witness Christmas Day.
Christmas Eve in Finland: Origin of Santa Claus in Finland
Santa Claus, or Joulupukki in Finnish, is one of the most beloved symbols of Christmas. The origin of Santa Claus can be traced back to a character named “Old Man” or “Nikolaus” who was believed to bring gifts to children during Christmas. In Finland, Santa Claus is often depicted as a jolly old man in a red coat and white beard.
Popular Christmas Gifts in Finland
The most popular gifts are usually given by Santa Claus. Gifts might include plants, clothes, electronics, toys, and more, but some children love receiving books as gifts. Many Finnish parents start a tradition of reading a book every day in December and aim to read more during this month.
Sauna, a place for relaxation and tranquility, holds a special place in Finnish traditions. Sauna-going has deep roots in Finnish traditions, and some families prefer to go to the sauna on Christmas Eve instead of engaging in other activities, experiencing even more tranquility.