26 December 2014

Snapshots of Our Finnish Christmas - Joulutunnelmiamme

When I was really little we often spent the holidays in the countryside with my grandparents. There was lots of snow those days and we were taken on a sleigh ride. It was like magic!

In Europe Christmas is the biggest holiday of the year, just like the New Year is in Asia. The big day for us in Scandinavia is the Christmas Eve unlike in many other European coutries like the UK.

There are certain similarities in most Finnish families' Christmas, I think. We are probably a good sample of a little family's city Christmas. Our holiday is mostly traditional but maybe with a tiny modern twist.


Outdoor candles bring light into the darkness
 My highlights, after the obvious one of spending relaxing time together with my family, are:

  • the smell of the tree when I come downstairs in the morning of Christmas Eve. Matti is still sleeping, I make some tea and eat chocolates for breakfast and just enjoy the holiday spirit and the wonderfully fragrant tree. The tree has usually been decorated the previous night with old ornaments. I'm a traditionalist here!
  • the big dinner which is had earlier than usual, talking and eating too much
  • new books with delicious favourite chocolates later in the evening
The tree was bought on Sunday.
I'm the hobbit behind the tree, on the left.

I prefer old ornaments with family history to new fashionable ones.
After I have enjoyed my morning ritual, we'll have a light lunch of Carelian savory rice or potato pies. My father was from Carelia, so my mother always made these for Christmas. I have made them as well, but not for many years, so they are store bought now.


The real Christmas begins at noon when the city of Turku traditionally declares the Christmas season opened. It's a rather serious occasion with singing, the Navy band and the reading of the declaration. It's a centuries old tradition.

If you committed any disturbance or crimes during the festive season those days, your punishment would be more severe than normally.

Since I have watched this on tv since I was a kid, it always makes me a little bit sentimental, but definitely sets the Christmas mood as well.

The declaration
Singing the national athem "Maamme".
When our son arrives, it's time to go to the sauna. I go first and start my cooking afterwards (I'm The Chef in our family), the men can take their time when it's their turn.

When the dinner is on it's way, we'll pop the Champagne open and have a little something to eat on the side.

Champagne and gingerbread cookies with blue cheese.
The dinner is a long affair with very traditional courses with red and white wine:
  • cold smoked salmon
  • warm smoked salmon
  • salad
  • smoked turkey (just a little bit, not a whole turkey)
  • warm peas
  • braised red cabbage
  • creamy onions
  • potato pudding
  • carrot pudding
  • swede pudding
As you can see the food is not at all haute cuisine, but quite heavy as it dates back to the times when Finland was an agricultural country. All puddings are savoury and are to be eaten with (or without like myself) the turkey as part of the main course.

I think the puddings are an acquired taste but most Finns like them a lot. I love my home made potato pudding. Its like oven baked potato mash with milk and butter and it's baked for several hours. It is started the previous night and you have get up twice during the night to stir it!

Setting the table

The potato pudding
 After the dinner everybody is stuffed, so we just take it easy for a while and soon the presents are given. Now that our son is a grown up we give just a few presents like books, but of course he still gets the most presents!

When he was little Santa came and gave the presents after our son had sang a song or showed some magician's tricks. You can actually "rent" a Santa (don't tell anybody!) or he's your neigbour or a relative. When I was little the scales fell off my eyes when I realised Santa had my uncle's voice!

Later in the evening it's tea and cake time, after which a silly movie will be watched. There's always lots of discussion about which one to choose. The genre is something like Bridget Jones or E.T. :)

Home made pecan sticky bun cake. Not beautiful, but delicious.

This year's movie
Snacks in case someone gets hungry
Christmas day is one of the sweetest days of the year. I read my new books and eat chocolate all day.

Reading new books
On Boxing Day it's time to see relatives and our son and his girlfriend will come to dinner. The food is usually fish, nothing Christmassy anymore.

So, this is how we spend Christmas. Is it very different from yours, if you happen to celebrate any?


  1. Ihanan ja tunnelmallisen näköinen joulu teillä. Ihailen tuota kaunista ja luonnollista joulukuusta. Meillä ei ihan se mennyt putkeen tänä jouluna. No mutta olemme ainakin saaneet naureskella kun ollaan katsottu sitä :)

    1. Kiitos, Anne! Meidän kuusemme oli oikeasti aika vino, huomattiin se vasta kotona ja sitä pitikin kovasti asetella! Ja pääasia, että naurattaa! :)

  2. Ja kuusta tuoksutellaan vasta aattona! Tämän vuotinen (lahjaksi saatu :-) joulukuuseksi kasvatettu oli vain niin hento oksainen, että kesti vain lasipallot.

    1. Niin tietysti! Harmi, että sillä oli niin hennot oksat! Meillä oli tällä kertaa tukeva yksilö, joka kantoi kaikki koristeet kunnialla.


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