Merry Christmas from Finland!
I’m so happy to be writing this article for Ana’s Advent Calendar 2015! Just a year ago in December 2014, I moved from the US to Finland to be with my wife, Suzi. Many exciting things have happened and I’ve been introduced to new traditions & brought a few American ones to her family.
We celebrated with her family in Tampere, about 2 hours north of where we live ( in the Helsinki area near the Baltic Sea). The Finns use a lot of potatoes here and my mother in law makes the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had. They also love macaroni casserole (makaroni laatikko) and sweet potato & beef (bataati laatiko) premade casseroles here that are traditionally available at the stores. They also make amazing pulla or sweet breads and rolls. Some make them at home, but they’re available freshly made at most markets.
Mustamakkara is another Finnish food I tried for the first time in Tampere. It is a local favorite not eaten anywhere else than Tampere but free servings of the sausages are given out at Christmastime each year in the past few years. While not necessarily a Christmas tradition, it’s something that many locals either love or hate. I’m not a huge fan, but I do like it a bit.
Another big traditional food at Christmas is rutabaga casserole. It tastes much like regular potatoes and is a staple in their diet. It is quite similar in taste, in my opinion, to scalloped potatoes.
A favorite cookie of mine that I love to make is the Russian Tea Cake. I made a large batch and took them with us to her parents’ home for the holidays. They liked them very much and I made them a few more times that spring after Christmas.
I also took my trumpet with me to their home and played some Christmas carols as we all sat in the living room together. I understood very little Finnish at that point, but they were and still are so welcoming and kind.
During that visit to Tampere over Christmas, Suzi and I also attended a church service nearby where they had a Christmas hymn sing, all in Finnish, of course. My Finnish vocabulary was very tiny at that point, but I could pronounce things well even if I had no idea what they meant. It was a magical night there in that large old church. Additionally, a Finnish tradition on Christmas Eve night is lighting candles in graveyards on graves of loved ones. It’s very powerful to witness. Standing there in the cold prior to the service that night, as we lit candles, held hands and said prayers for her loved ones, I was humbled. It was sad, magical and beautiful all at once.
Finnish tradition also includes much coffee all the time, not just at Christmas. Coffee is had at breakfast, morning break, afternoon break and after dinner, along with cookies, cakes and other sweet breads (pulla) etc.
A favorite Finnish dish of mine year round is fruit soup, or kiisseli. It’s very easy to make and I think it was the first Finnish dish I made on my own. It consists of fresh or frozen fruit—usually strawberry, raspberry or blueberry, sometimes lingonberry—which is then boiled and potato starch is added, along with sweetener or vanilla sugar. It is served with cream or vanilla sauce or regular milk. My mother in law showed me how she liked to crumble up rye crackers and toss them in. The fruit mixture and cream soak into the cracker pieces and make for a lovely dessert any time.
When I was growing up in America, we always had a tree and decorated it. Suzi’s parents had waited for us to arrive so that we could all decorate it together. It really meant a lot to me and I felt part of the family immediately. Hanging up decorations and chatting with Suzi and her parents and brother & his wife, was a lovely way to spend part of an afternoon.
This year, Suzi and I will be celebrating on our own here at home and will be making our own traditions. We have talked about what foods we might like to have and things we’d like to do. I loved riding around as a kid as we looked at people’s Christmas light displays. I’m excited to do that here where we live this year. Also, there is a church we will probably attend for Christmas Eve. We will most likely get a small tree to decorate together. We love to have colored Christmas lights hanging year round here for night light purposes but also they’re very cheery. And now, since the outside renovations are done at our apartment complex, we will have our enclosed balcony back for use right as holiday season begins. We are anxious to put up some lights there and decorate it a bit more. We weren’t here much last Christmas and spent a lot of time in Tampere so this is our first Christmas at home together.
So perhaps next year, I can write another article talking more about how our Finnish and American traditions have merged even more! Hyvää Joulua kaikille Suomesta! (Merry Christmas to all from Finland!)
- Day 1: Welcome and Christmas Expectations
- Day 2: Christmas at my House
- Day 3: Giving Tuesday
- Day 4: Pizza and Poker/Holiday Recipe Exchange
- Day 5: Little Lynnie’s Christmas Crackers
- Day 6: Blue Christmas
- Day 7: Take your Child to the Bookstore
- Day 8: St. Knickerless Day
- Day 9: Not so Traditional Holiday Traditions
- Day 10: Holiday Sing-a-long
- Day 11: Jolly Old Mrs. Claus ( Ana’s Spoons)
- Day 12: Congratulations to winners so far
- Day 12A: Christmas Kisses
- Day 13: Writing over the holidays
- Day 14: White Elephant
- Day 15: Christmas in Ireland
- Day 16: Christmas with her Horse
- Day 17: Christmas in Translation
- Day 18: Sex Toy Story 3
- Day 19: Second (First) Christmas
- Day 20: Christmas Stress
- Day 21: How QueerScifi.com was created
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