Holidays in Finnish Lapland: A Finnish Christmas

Helsinki by winter time

Christmas in Finland is a magical time – Finnish Lapland is, after all, the home of Santa Claus! Lapland holidays have so much to offer the tourist – and no more so than during the Festive Season.

Christmas in Finland is all about traditions which centre around family and the home. Finns slow down the pace of their lives and take the time to embrace the warmth of family and the home, while the cold, dark, and snowy atmosphere of the North is offset by a sky full of stars and twinkling Christmas lights.

Most Finns congregate in the family home for festive celebrations, though it is also popular to relocate to a rented cottage in the countryside. Christmas Eve is the highlight of the Christmas season in Finland; a sacred time where family joins together to decorate the tree, drink mulled wine, sing carols and enjoy a sauna. A Christmas Eve feast is traditionally comprised of a pork roast, served with fish, casseroles, and salads. Rice pudding is eaten for Christmas Eve breakfast, warm with cinnamon, sugar, and other spices; ginger cookies and chocolates are enjoyed as well.

Early in the evening, families visit cemetaries to leave candles on the graves of family members who have passed. Many Finns attend a Midnight Mass church service.

Christmas Day is usually about feasting on leftovers and spending time with family; Boxing Day is the day reserved for visiting with friends , partying, and many will make for bars and clubs to share the Christmas Spirit.

Christmas would not be Christmas without Santa Claus – and Finnish Lapland is his home. Santa traditionally lives on the Korvatunturi Mountain in Savukoski. As Santa’s first stop and closest to his home, excited children in Finland receive their gifts from him on Christmas Eve. During the evening of Christmas Eve, there is a loud knocking at the door, and Santa Claus (“Joulupukki”) enquires as to whether there are any good children in the house. When the answer is affirmative, he leaves gifts. Strangely, he always arrives when the father in the household is attending to outside chores!

In the city of Turku, there is a Christmas Eve tradition which dates back to the 1300’s. People gather just before noon, and on the stroke of noon by the Turku Cathedral Bell, the Declaration of Christmas Peace is proclaimed.

Santa Claus’ Finnish name is Joulupukki; this literally translates as “Christmas Goat”. Traditionally, Finland had a scary Yule Goat who asked for gifts but never reciprocated! Over the years, he transformed to the jolly and generous man in red who is a giver, not a taker.

Even animals in Finland are thought of at Christmas, with farmers hanging, from a tree, a sheaf of wheat to be eaten; nuts and suet are also hung for birds to peck at.

Christmas is a magical time of year the world over, but no more so than in Finland. For those embarking on festive season Lapland holidays, a visit to meet Santa in his home is a must.

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