8 Finnish Christmas facts most foreigners don't know

Looking for some interesting and unique facts about Christmas in Finland, which visitors don't know? Check out our list of 8 little-known facts about Finnish Christmas traditions. From the origins of Santa Claus to the national holiday of joulu, there's plenty to learn about Finland's holiday season. 

1. Christmas Eve is more important than Christmas Day

 Many Finns spend Christmas Eve at home with their families, enjoying a festive meal and opening gifts. Christmas Day is often spent relaxing and enjoying leftovers from the previous day's feast.


2. The Finnish Santa Claus is known as " joulupukki"

Joulupukki literally means Christmas goat and unlike his American counterpart, he does not live at the North Pole. Instead he lives on korvatunturi, a mountain in Lapland.

3. Traditionally, Christmas trees were't decorated until Christmas Eve

Finnish Christmas trees are spruce trees. Traditionally, there were always brought and decorated on Christmas Eve morning. Although these days people often decorate earlier. 

4. In Finland, Santa Claus is said to arrive on Christmas Eve, not on Christmas Day

On the night of December 24th, children excitedly await for a visit  from Joulupukki who often visits them in person. 

5. Finnish Christmas carols are often very sad 

Varpunen jouluaamuna" (Sparrow on a Christmas Morning), for example, tells a story of a girl and her dead little brother. The brother has died of famine, but visits the girl on Christmas morning in a shape of a sparrow. “The morsel of food you offered brought me from the land on angels."  While “Hei tonttu-ukot hyppikää” (Jump, Christmas Elves) reminds us, that “life is short, and it’s mostly dark and gloomy”.

6. Finnish Christmas dinner is typically a feast of hearty dishes such as roast ham

Baked salmon, and various casseroles and stews are feasted upon too. Dessert is also an important part of the meal, and often includes cookies, gingerbread, and various pastries.

 7. Christmas is known as "joulu"

This comes from the ancient Germanic name for the winter solstice celebrated before Christianity, Yule. This was a time of celebration and feasting, and many of the traditions associated with the holiday have their origins in this ancient festival.

 8. Finland officially declares Christmas a peaceful time

Every year, at noon on Christmas Eve, the Christmas Peace is declared from the city of Turku. The declaration, which has been proclaimed since the 1300s, is read out loud to remind people that Christmas peace has begun, to advise people to spend the festive period in harmony, to threaten offenders with harsh punishments, and to wish all a merry Christmas.


  • I like Gape HOrn

    Gape Horn
  • There’s some false information in this article when speaking about Finnish Christmas carols.

    It’s told here that
    ‘Varpunen jouluaamuna’ (Sparrow on a Christmas Morning, lyrics by Zachris Topelius), for example, tells a story of a girl and her dead little brother. The brother has died of famine, but visits the girl on Christmas morning in a shape of a sparrow. ‘The morsel of food you offered brought me from the land on angels’ . "

    The little brother DID’NT die in famine but in a disease. ZachrisTopelius wrote his own sorrow about the loss of a beloved son, who died in a fatal sickness.
    Rafael was his only son, and in the poem which was later composed as a beloved Christmas song, he described how the late baby boy came to visit his sister in a shape of a sparrow.

    In 1800’s it was very common that babies died in some sickness before their first birthday, the story of the song was very familiar in most families resonating in people’s hearts, and the song became very popular.

    It’s very easy to claim Finnish Christmas songs as sad, if you dont know well the Finnish culture and the background of the songs as in “Sparrow in the Christmas Morning”. The Finnish Christmas is not a noisy festival, it’s a family celebration with solemnity and mid-winter mood with Christmas tree, candle lights and good food. In the background there’s an old agrarian mid-winter festival, when there was time to rest and there was plenty of food. The solemnity becomes from gratitude of the food security and Christian traditions, which are still in the background of the Finnish Christmas.
    And when it’s the darkest time of the year and you feel yourself more or less drowsy, then the songs have easily some melancholy.

    But there are also cheerful Christmas carols and plays, which used to be performed at school celebrations. Now however the demand of non-religious Christmas celebrations have ruined many nice traditions.

    Maybe we should remove also the English word ‘Christmas’ which is referencing to the birth of Christ…?

    The Finnish word ‘joulu’ (coming from the old word ‘yule’) is better in this meaning, cause it has nothing to do with Christianity 😊.

    Katrina Suikki
  • In our version of Latino Christmas traditions, Christmas Eve is the star. We feast. Go to church and open presents. When I was younger the tree was decorated then..now, most of us decorate earlier. Wit the price of evergreens. we want to get our money’s worth.

    Robert Sanchez
  • The Finnish Joulupukki of today is a scary and very old man, who is tired and skinny, can hardly stand up, and sings a dreary song to children, who answer him a farewell when it is time for him to go on. The first time I saw him I was not impressed, and I haven’t been impressed since.

  • In my childhood in Finland we had dried cod with stinky white sauce, roast gammon, roast beef, boiled potatoes, oven baked dishes of swede, carrots and rice or liver and raisins. Also a cold salad of chopped root vegetables with sauce of whipped cream sweetened and coloured with beetroot juice called " rosolli". For afters we had rice porridge with dried fruit boiled and thickened. with potato flour. And we were thoughorly stuffef


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