Are you staying in Finland over the Christmas holidays?
You may be going to Lapland, travelling elsewhere within Finland or the other Nordic countries, or staying in Helsinki to experience a Finnish Christmas. If this is the case, here is what you can do in Helsinki during the holiday period:
Traditional Finnish Delicacies and handicrafts can be found at the St. Thomas Market (Tuomaan markkinat) on the Senate Square until 22.12. Other Christmas markets include Finnish handicrafts at the traditional Christmas market at the Old Student House until December 23. Also, you don’t need to go all the way to Lapland to visit Santa Claus as he’ll be at the little Christmas market outside the New Student House.
The skating rink on the by the Central Railway station also offers a fun wintry Christmas activity. Skates can be hired at the rink.
Christmas carols are an important way of getting into the Christmas spirit. Tiernapojat, a tradiotional, centuries-old Christmas play depicting king Herod and the massacre of the innocents, as well as the journey of the three wise men, is sung by group of four young men at Christmas parties and churches. If you wish to sing yourself visit the ‘Most Beautiful Christmas Carols’ (Kauneimmat joululaulut) a series of annual concerts where the audience is invited to sing along from a leaflet of selected Christmas carols varying from one year to the other. The sing-along concerts are organised at churches. The website is in Finnish, but look for the words ‘kansainväliset kauneimmat joululaulut’, international most beautiful Christmas carols.
Christmas Eve is the main holiday for the Finnish . The day often begins with rice porridge, where an almond is hidden to bring good luck for the person who finds it. At noon people watch a televised reading of the Christmas Peace Declaration at Turku. Many go on to watch the Snowman from TV straight after.
As many Finnish holidays, even Christmas includes a visit to the graveyard to light candles on the graves of deceased relatives. And of coure, no Finnish celebration is complete with out a sauna! Kotiharjun sauna, a traditional public sauna heated with real wood is open 10 -16 on Christmas Eve, and offers a discount for students.
A lot of families with small children watch a programme called the Hotline for Santa Claus, where Santa Claus answers calls from (usually very nervous) children. The evening o’clock news usually feature as news the departure of Santa Claus from his workshop at Korvatunturi in Lapland to deliver Christmas presents. Most families with children receive an actual visit from Santa Claus (a hired one, or a relative or guest who somehow mananges to miss Santa Claus’ visit every single year as he has to nip out for an errand just as he’s about to arrive). Santa Claus knocks on the door asking ‘Are there children who have been nice?’
Christmas Day is usually spent among family, or visiting close relatives. Board games, films and eating chocolates are popular pastimes.
An ecumenic service is from the Turku Cathedral is televised, and the Urbi & Orbi blessing of the pope is also on TV. Many people who are not otherwise religious attend a midnight service offered by many churches on midnight or 11 o’clock on Christmas Eve.
Tradiotionally Boxing Day, or St. Stephen’s Day (Tapaninpäivä) was the day when, after celebrating Christmas with close family, people visited relatives and friends. Young horses were harnessed in front of a sleigh for the first time, and the ensuing wild rides were great fun for the youth. You can enjoy a ride in a horse-drawn carriage at Seurasaari on Boxing Day, and the island is worth visiting.
Even now both young and old often go out on Boxing Day, and special Boxing Day Balls or dances are organised. Tickets can usually be bought both in advance and at the door.