JYU Student Ambassadors


Finnish Christmas Traditions

Santa Claus aka Joulupukki

»tis the season to be jolly, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la«

Since Christmas is just around the corner we will present some Christmas (winter) traditions that are typical in Finland around Christmastime.

First Sunday in December
The first Sunday – the First Advent – starts the Finnish Christmas season and the first candle is being lit. Many children use advent calendars to count down the remaining days to Christmas Eve. Calendars come in many forms, from paper calendars to painted wooden boxes where you can store small gifts for each day leading to Christmas.

Independence Day celebrations

Finnish Independence day
After the first weekend of Advent, Finns celebrate their Independence day, which coincides with the feast day of Saint Nicholas on December 6th. For Finnish people, this is a very patriotic day and they light up special white-and-blue candles for the celebration. This tradition dates back to the 19th century as then two candles were the mark of Finnish nationalism. The highlight of this national holiday is staying at home and watching Presidential Independence Day Reception – so basically Finns celebrate their independence by watching other people party. Pretty weird right?

Pikkujoulut – little pre-christmas parties
All through December there are many “pikkujulout” or pre-Christmas parties held to anticipate Christmas. Usually, co-workers, sports clubs, organizations or just groups of friends come up with fun activities to celebrate before Christmas. Pikkujoulu is non-formal and highly festive party and if you move to Finland, you will have at least one (if not many) of them.

The Christmas tree
The Christmas tree is brought to the Finnish home latest by 24th of December. One interesting fact is that since 1954, Helsinki has donated a Christmas tree to Brussels.

Biggest celebration on the Christmas Eve
In the Nordic countries, the most important Christmas celebration takes place on the Christmas Eve. Everyone tries to be home for Christmas, including fishermen who try to get their boats into harbour by December 21st. Christmas Eve traditions include Christmas sauna and preparation of the dinner which is served between 5 and 7 pm. Some families also visit cemeteries to remember the loved ones. The highlight of the evening comes when Santa knocks on the door and give children the presents. Santa Claus (or Father Christmas - Joulupukki), according to Finns, lives in north part of Finland called Korvatunturi.

never without sauna
Christmas food
Some people say that when it comes to Finnish Christmas food, there are two key things: quality and quantity. Some typical dishes are:
* Salmon (the queen of Finnish Christmas food) and herring
* Beetroot salad
* Christmas ham
* Rice pudding – it is almost always served on the last day of school before the Christmas holiday starts and many families also eat it as lunch on Christmas Eve. On this occasion, Finns usually hide an almond in the porridge and person who finds it gets a wish.
* Christmas treats: gingerbread, Joulutorttu (star-shaped plum pastries, plum quark)


Rice pudding

Christmas day
Christmas day is time for rest and relaxation and Finns usually spend it with their families. The next day, on Boxing day (26th December) people visit their friends and relatives and go out for skiing. Christmas in Finland does not officially end until 13 days after Christmas Day, which makes the holiday truly a season, as opposed to a single-day celebration. After Christmas holidays it is time to get prepared to welcome the New Year. Christmas ends with Epiphany, January 6th.

And if you fancy learning some Finnish for the end here are some unique Christmas greetings:
* Hyvää joulua – Merry Christmas
* Rauhallista joulua – Peaceful Christmas
* Hauskaa joulua – Fun Christmas
* Valoisaa joulua – Bright Christmas
* Ihanaa joulua – Lovely Christmas

So until now you have probably realized “joulu” means Christmas. For the end of this article, we wish to all of you Hyvää Joulua and hope that you spend it with your family and loved ones.

Tjaša Ocvirk

Finnish Christmas Traditions Finnish Christmas Traditions Reviewed by ambassadors on 10:36 Rating: 5


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  9. Longer-standing customs in Finland involve going to the Christmas sauna and church, paying a visit to the cemetery on Christmas Eve, retro bowl listening to carols, opening the Advent calendar, lighting candles, and looking for a Christmas tree.

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