8 wonderful ways Finnish Christmas is unique
We all know the common Christmas traditions shared the world over - Santa Claus, the Christmas tree, presents - but what about the things that make Christmas unique? In Finland, there's plenty of time honoured Christmas traditions you won't find anywhere else. So, let's take a look.
1. Finnish Christmas sauna (Joulusauna)
Finns are crazy about saunas, and have built 3.3 million of them to prove it. So it's no surprise they manage to schedule a steamy session over the Christmas period. Joulusauna (Christmas sauna) offers a moment of relaxation and a chance to chase away the cold with a generous supply of Löyly.
It's also about spending quality time with family and appreciating the moment, so getting the Joulusauna atmosphere right is essential.
Many Finns create a beautiful ambience in the Joulusauna with candles, lanterns and oils. And when it's time to cool off, some brave Finns even walk out into the freezing December night to feel the snow between their toes.
2. Traditional Finnish decorations: the Himmeli
A himmeli is a traditional Finnish Christmas decoration made by threading straw into a three-dimensional piece of art. For years, Finns have hanged a himmeli on the ceiling at Christmas as a symbol of good luck. But it hasn't always been associated with Christmas.
In fact, the pyramid-shaped decoration was thought to indicate the size of an upcoming harvest. The larger the himmeli, the greater the amount of food. Today, the himmeli is a prominent feature in most Finnish homes over the holidays.
3. Finnish cemetery candles
Visiting the cemetery is not something most people think of as a Christmas tradition. But for Finns, it's an unmissable activity. Placing candles on graves at Christmas Eve is a tradition born from both of Finland's major religions, Lutheranism and Eastern Orthodoxy.
But it's practised by Finns of all faiths these days, and around three-quarters of Finnish families take a candle to the cemetery over Christmas to pay respect to departed friends and relatives. Thousands of candles illuminating the peaceful ground of countless cemeteries on a winter's night is truly a beautiful and touching sight.
Traditional Finnish Christmas food and drink
Kinkku (baked ham) is a significant part of the Finnish Christmas dinner. It's baked slowly for a crunchy and sweet outer crust, while the meat on the inside remains soft, smokey and juicy. As most Finns agree, Christmas in Finland would not be the same without Christmas ham.
Lanttulaatikko (swede casserole) is a surprisingly sweet dish made with mashed swede, cream, bread crumbs and a dash of nutmeg. It's a perfect meal for a chilly December evening. Not only is it loaded with vitamins, but it tastes delicious, too.
Rosolli (beetroot salad) is another unlikely Christmas dish, but Finns have enjoyed it for generations. It's not just about beetroots, however. Rosolli also contains a host of other hearty root vegetables such as potato, carrot, onion, cucumber, and a bit of fruit.
Joulutorttu (Finnish Christmas tarts) are pastries with a festive star-shaped appearance and a prune jam filling. They feel light in your hand thanks to the fluffy pastry, and offer a beautiful sweet and savoury flavour. Eating just one joulutorttu is nearly impossible.
Glögi (mulled wine) has been enjoyed in the Nordics since the 1700s, but only became a major part of Finnish Christmas in the 1970s. Before this, Glögi was enjoyed widely by 19th century Finns, until the delicious wine-based fruit drink disappeared from law-abiding homes due to the alcohol prohibition laws. Thankfully, alcoholic Glögi is back again, and the Finnish are keen to keep it. Still, non-alcoholic Glögi is also widely enjoyed in Finland and is just one of the fantastic selection of 0% drinks available in the small Nordic nation.
Indeed, spending Christmas in Finland is a magical experience. And although it may not be possible to visit Finland for Christmas 2020 due to the pandemic situation, adding some Finnish Christmas culture to your stocking is easy.
Here at Very Finnish Problems, we've designed a load of cool Finnish T-shirts, mugs, hoodies and much more merchandise for Finland lovers of all shapes and sizes.
We also deliver to most countries, so men, women and children can show their love of Finnish Christmas anywhere in the world. So check out the Very Finnish Problems online store today, and be sure to have a very merry Christmas.