Finland is, of course, the home of Father Christmas, and every Finnish child knows that Santa lives on the Mountain of Korvatunturi in the town of Savukoski. Father Christmas now has new headquarters in Rovaniemi a city near the Arctic circle. Lapland is full of Reindeers so Father Christmas has no trouble finding some to pull his sleigh. The children of Finland are very lucky as they are first on the list for getting their presents on Christmas Eve. After the unveiling of the outdoor Christmas decorations at the beginning of December the next celebration is Finland’s Independence Day which coincides with St.Nicolas Day on the 6th of December. As in the other Scandinavian countries, the 13th December, St.Lucia’s Day is celebrated. For days before Christmas houses are cleaned in readiness for the celebrations and sheaths of wheat along with nuts and seeds are placed out in the garden for the birds. Christmas Eve breakfast is hot creamy rice pudding to keep out the cold. After breakfast the children will go with their father to pick a tree while their mother finishes off any shopping still needing to be done. All the shops close at midday when the age-old tradition of “Christmas Peace” is proclaimed in Turku Finland’s oldest city. This tradition dates back to the 13th century.The bells of the 14th-century Turku Cathedral sound in many a Finnish home as people view the age-old ceremony on television. Then the festivities begin. Often families will go to the sauna and then put on clean clothes ready for dinner which is served in the evening. Joulupukki, Father Christmas, calls by either just before or just after dinner with his elves, he always knocks and asks “Are there any well behaved children here?”, of course there always are! and so he distributes his presents, the children sing songs to him before he leaves to see to the other children around the world. Sadly Father is normally missing as he has his Christmas chores to do around this time!. Dinner will include Luskfish (cod soaked in Lye), hams, mashed potatoes, vegetables, plum tarts and berry puddings. The accompanying drink is Glögi , a warming mulled-wine, deigned to keep out the cold. Families also visit the cemetery during the evening to leave a lighted candle for those who are no longer able to join them, it is said that around three quarters of the population will visit the cemetery on Christmas Eve and far from being morbid it is a serene experience with thousands of candles twinkling in the dark and being reflected in the snow.
Christmas Day starts early with Christmas church services often starting at around 6am. The rest of the day is spent at home with the immediate family.Christmas Day is a time for rest and relaxation, like reading books Santa Claus brought and eating food left over from Christmas Eve. People wait until Saint Stephen’s Day (Boxing Day), December 26, to pay visits to friends and relatives. And if the weather permits, people visit outdoor events arranged by heritage societies.According to legend, Saint Stephen was a stable boy of King Herod, and in Finland, as elsewhere, Stephen became the patron saint of horses and horsemen. On Saint Stephen’s Day horses are included in the celebration of Christmas. In the past, horses pulled the sleighs when people visited friends and relatives, and sleigh rides can still be enjoyed at many a Saint Stephen’s Day event.On the 26th Visits are made to relatives and friends. Star boys will travel around the towns singing carols.The Star boys walk about from house to house “singing at the doors, with a star on a pole”. The dramatic part is introduced by one of the Wise Men knocking on someone’s door asking: “May the star come in?” If the offer is accepted, they are all invited inside. Then the whole procession will enter the home singing a special Christmas carol.
Then the play begins.In the performance, the Three Wise Men, Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar, are first confronted by Joseph, who tries to protect the newborn baby Jesus (a doll) and his wife Mary from the intruders with a wooden axe. The three magi are however most welcome inside after saying that they have brought with them presents for the child. The Wise Men also have to mislead King Herod, who is also trying to find the new born ‘prince’ in the stable. Both Gaspar and Melchior fight the king and his men with swords, together with Joseph who uses his broad axe, while Mary nurses her son and Balthazar takes care of the shining star.After the performance Judas comes to collect money or other gifts from the audience in a large bag. The young boys are usually treated to strong drinks and cakes afterwards. Then the Star boys leave the house for their next visit to somewhere in the neighbourhood, singing a song containing a farewell and many thanks for the received gifts.In Finland, a version of the Star boys’ procession originating in the city of Oulu, a musical play known as Tiernapojat, has become established as a cherished Christmas tradition nationwide. The Tiernapojat show is a staple of Christmas festivities in schools, kindergartens, and elsewhere, and it is broadcast every Christmas on radio and television.
The Christmas tree is brought home on December 24 at the latest. A star is placed at the top of the tree and the branches are adorned with sweets, elves, stars and apples, the latter relating to Adam and Eve: In the Finnish calendar, Christmas Eve is the name day of both Adam and Eve. The rural gentry and wealthy townsfolk began to adopt Christmas trees in the 1820s. The earliest account of a Christmas tree inside a Finnish home dates from the year 1829, when Helsinki dignitary Baron Klinckowström placed eight of them in his reception rooms.The population at large started adopting the tradition in the 1870s, first in the southwest and later in other regions. By the early 20th century, the Christmas tree was becoming a familiar sight in almost all Finnish homes.There was a public outdoor Christmas tree in the town of Tampere in 1894. Helsinki authorities have placed a Christmas tree on Senate Square every year since 1930.Helsinki has also donated a Christmas tree to Brussels every year since 1954, just as Oslo, Norway, sends one for Trafalgar Square in London.
The history of Christmas in Finland dates back to pre-Christian times. Vikings in the Nordic countries celebrated the winter solstice on the 21st of December by eating and drinking, exchanging gifts, sacrificing to their gods and playing games. Christmas in Finland also originates from a pagan festival called kekri that was celebrated every November until the arrival of Christianity to Finland in the 12th century, when old pagan traditions were combined with Christian Christmas celebrations.
You can meet Santa Claus and cross the magical Arctic Circle every day at the Santa Claus Village in Lapland. Send friends and relatives greetings from the Santa Claus Main Post Office with the unique Arctic Circle postmark, shop in the numerous gift stores and workshops and enjoy lifetime experiences with many different programmes…..Read more