Sunday, 21 December 2014

Christmas in Finland

If I had to draw up a list of countries that i'd like to visit soon then Finland would be pretty much at the top of that list. Finland is the land of seemingly endless forests and lakes, vibrant cities, home of Moomin World (yes, this does exist!) and one of the best places to see the northern lights. It’s also home to some of my all time favourite bands (think HIM, Apocalyptica, The 69 Eyes.... and many, many more!).

As we’re well and truly in the run up to Christmas now, ICE International Currency Exchange recently tasked me to put together a Christmas bundle to highlight the difference in other cultures when it comes to Christmas celebration. 
Everyone knows that Santa Claus comes from Finland and I’d absolutely love to visit this at this time of year so I think that it is the perfect country to write about!

There's no denying it, Finland during the festive season sounds just wonderful! Putting together this bundle was a real blast and I've enjoyed learning about some of the wonderful traditions in Finland at this time of year. I'll share some of these interspersed with some snaps of the things I gathered for my 'Christmas bundle'. Here goes....

I chose to host a mini 'Finnish feast' for my family using snacks, drinks and decorations that evoke a sense of Finland at Christmas time. Details of where I purchased everything can be found at the bottom of this post!

During the festive period, people in Finland like to take things slow and enjoy the company of their loved ones. The family home is important at Christmas time, as is nature and the surrounding natural atmosphere. Nobody is left out, including animals who are invited to join in with the festivities with farmers hanging out a sheaf of wheat to be eaten by birds as well as nuts and suet hung on tree branches.

I made sure that our garden birds had plenty of yummy treats too, stocking up on everything from seed to suet balls and feeders!

During the run up to Christmas, you'll find the festival of St Lucia which takes place every December 13th. The festival marks the beginning of the Christmas season and is meant to bring hope and light to all during the darkest time of the year.
The festival is celebrated mostly by the Swedish-speaking areas of Finland and involves a young girl wearing a crown of candles followed by a procession of girls who each carry a single candle. Here's a video of the celebration I found on youtube (it looks magical!)....

I bought this beautiful red horse candle ring from Chalet in Bakewell. The ring of candles reminded me of the festival of St Lucia and made a stunning little centerpiece on our dining table during our feast. The winter decorations and candles are interchangeable and so can easily be changed when spring comes around!

As with many countries including here in the UK, food plays a central role in the Christmas celebrations. The favoured dish for most is ham or a pork roast which is usually served with a variety of fish, casseroles and salads. Sweet pastries, cakes, biscuits and chocolates are enjoyed and rice pudding is also highlighted as a traditional and authentic Christmas food in Finland. There is a really cute tradition for a single almond to be hidden in the pudding and whoever finds it will have good luck for the year ahead!

Baked rice pudding with a sprinkle of cinnamon and golden stars, yum!

In terms of drinks, traditional glögi (spiced wine sprinkled with almonds, raisins and a dash of vodka!) is served to welcome visitors across homes, parties and markets.

Of course, Santa Claus comes from the north part of Finland (Korvatunturi, Lapland!) so he doesn't have to travel far with his reindeer to deliver his presents. In fact, he's so close by, people get their gifts a day early!
For some, Santa Claus is still known as Joulupukki which literally translates as 'Christmas goat' and this refers to the tale of a naughty goat who liked to ask for presents but never gave any out! Throughout time the goat eventually became the gift giver and Santa then took over the gift giving duties.

This reindeer decoration came in a do-it-yourself kit which was 100% made in Finland. I love how the kit is flat, super light and easy to send..... they would be an amazing gift to send through the post! For me, reindeer and Santa Claus are synonymous with Finland at this time of year.

Christmas eve seems to be the 'main event' in Finland and this is when families spend time together, decorating their trees, drinking glögi, relaxing and (this is my favourite!) bathing in a Christmas sauna. How lovely! I think we could do with a bit of sauna action here in the UK too!

As the sun sets so early in Finland, you'll see lots of magical ice lanterns lit up outside which i'm sure must be amazing to see in the cold wintry darkness. There is also a tradition for people to journey to cemeteries to leave candles on the graves of loved ones to remember them by at this time of year.

I adore this little decoration, the trees and reindeer remind me of Finland and I love the use of natural materials.

Here's a list of everything I gathered for my Finland Christmas bundle (apart from the food which disappeared very quickly before I had chance to photograph it!) and the shops I got them from....

Black and white Moomin plates - Artbox
Lovi do-it-yourself wooden reindeer figure decoration - Lovi
Wooden reindeer/forest Christmas decoration - Chalet Home in Bakewell
Christmas Moomin tin mug - Chalet Home in Bakewell
Red Horse candle ring and decorations - Chalet Home in Bakewell
Moomin tea towel - Ekelund Weavers via Chalet Home in Bakewell
/Assorted wild bird food and feeders - Bakewell Pet Supplies
Sheaf of wheat - scologic on eBay
Santa Claus tree/table decoration - Wilkinsons
Food and mulled wine - Aldi

Have you ever spent Christmas in another country? Or if not, where would you choose if you did?

1 comment

  1. Haha it's so funny you should say that about bands, only reason I went to Helsinki is cos of HIM. Ville Valo, ultimate travel inspiration obviously! GNAR MOSH