Wednesday 11 December 2013

Christmas in Finland

Well, as you might have expected with such an amazing programme, we had a great Christmas Tree Festival at St Andrew's (please see previous post). I can't believe it's so long since I last blogged - really getting into the Christmas rush now...

Anyway, one of the outstanding items was Elisa doing her presentation on Christmas in Finland. Some people who really wanted to see it missed it because of a change in the programme times, so here it is below. I ought to say my wife does it much better live than it appears in cold print.

Good morning everyone. I'd like to tell you all about Christmas where I grew up in Finland. It's very important because Finland is the true home of Christmas. We have reindeer, and snow is guaranteed, but best of all, Finland, as you all should know, is where Father Christmas lives. We call him Joulupukki and he lives with his elves in a secret place called Korvatunturi.

There are many things the same about Christmas in Finland but many things are very different. For one thing, our Christmas seems to be much less commercial than yours in England. Maybe it's because I grew up on a farm but I don't remember the annual shopping frenzy!

Christmas Eve is the busiest day of the season. The whole house must be cleaned from top to bottom to welcome Christmas in. Not only that, but you have to be perfectly clean yourself, so everyone has a hot Christmas sauna.

Just the thing in those freezing Northern winters! If you are a bit mad, like my brother Antti, you can rush outside from the sauna to cool off with a nice refreshing roll in the snow – brrrr! Antti has even persuaded foolish visitors from England, such as my husband, that everyone does it and got them to join in!

Please note everyone in this picture in wearing a swimming costume of some kind!

Nature is never very far away in Finland. One of the loveliest traditions on our farm was to go out into our own forest, choose a tree and bring it fresh into the house on Christmas Eve. The children would get together to decorate it and the lovely smell of the freshly cut tree would fill the house.

Next there would be a very important visitor! In Finland, Father Christmas always comes in person. He is in his own country and he takes his time. He doesn't zoom down chimneys. He comes and knocks on the door and the children have to welcome him in. You can imagine the excitement at my home. There were seven children, me, my five sisters and my brother all desperately waiting for Father Christmas to come!

And when he does arrive, the children have to entertain him. Finnish children sing traditional songs for Father Christmas, and do dances in a ring for him. And then he gives them their presents!

For some reason dad always went out to feed our horse just before Father Christmas came. It happened the same every Christmas! He was always so disappointed when he came back and found he had missed Father Christmas yet again!

Then it's time for Christmas dinner. We don't have turkey for Christmas in Finland, we usually have a great big joint of ham. There are lots of traditional dishes to go with it, like rossoli which is made from beetroot and lantulaatikko which is sort of stewed swede – it's much nicer than it sounds! We also have rice porridge which we think is a great delicacy.

On Christmas Eve we Finns all go to the churchyard to remember people we used to share Christmas with in times past but who are no longer with us. There is a special service where everyone lights candles and puts them by their family graves. The churchyard looks very beautiful and mysterious with the candles flickering in the darkness.

Christmas day itself is much quieter than Christmas Eve – a day to enjoy that pleasant full-up feeling and play with your new gifts. Hopefully also to remember Jesus, God's gift of love to the world.

Do you know, it was at Christmas that I first came to England? God spoke to me very powerfully that I should come here and the only berth I could get was on a ship sailing at Christmas. By that time, I had asked Jesus into my life and I had decided to follow him, wherever He might lead me – and He brought me here! I'll gladly tell you the story later if you ask me. But I think the real meaning of Christmas is when Jesus comes into your heart. That's why He came to earth in the first place, and that's true whether you live in Finland, or England, or anywhere in the world.

I'm going to finish by teaching you to say Happy Christmas in Finnish. After all, if you ever meet Father Christmas, you can greet him in his own language!

Let's try it  - 

Hyvรครค Joulua!

1 comment:

Benta AtSLIKstitches said...

Elisa, that's lovely, I wish I had been there to hear you tell it! My mum tells of similar Christmases in Norway: the family would all meet on Christmas Eve but every year one of the Dr Uncles would be called away to a patient and sadly miss Father Christmas - but how funny, said one cousin, Father Christmas has the same shoes as daddy!

Did you have coloured lights on your tree? My grandfather had real candles, and even family who had electric tree lights only had white, that is one tradition that I keep for my tree, and we have a string of Norwegian flags on the tree too