Taylors in Finland

The Grand Adventure

Mary Ann's Fulbright Exchange to Oulu, Finland
August 2001 - June 2002

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13 - 26 December 2001
Christmas In Finland

13 December 2001, Thursday
Santa Lucia Day
Sunrise/sunset 1015/1410
High/low 4C/-1C (39F/30F)

The first and the sixth graders performed the Santa Lucia ceremony by walking down the dark corridors at 0900 with candles. Santa Lucia comes from the North and brings light during the dark, dreary days of winter. This is a Swedish tradition that is celebrated in Oulu because of its past ties to Sweden. After the ceremony there was Glgi and Christmas ginger snaps for everyone.

19 December 2001, Wednesday
Sunrise/sunset 1023/1407
High/low -8C/-15C (18F/5F)
Cutting our Christmas Tree

John I had a great day today. I was invited to join a next-door neighbor when he went to get his Christmas tree from his in-laws farm. We left at 1015 and drove 55 Km south of Oulunsalo. After coffee AND with Kari and his in-laws, Kari, his father-in-law, Paavo Kananen and I drove about 1 Km into the forest to one of the other unoccupied farmhouses and parked. And then we walked into the forest. About fifteen minutes of walking about to spot trees, (I finally figured out that Paavo had been out during the prior few days scouting, stashing the chainsaw, fuel, axe, setting up firewood, etc.) two trees were chosen (yes, we got one of them!). We carried the trees back to the road out and then retired to the fire to cook the sausages we had brought with us. Paavo fixed camp coffee and we sat out in the woods eating while Kari told me about Paavo working in the lumber industry as a young man in the lumber camps in Lapland. Paavo passed a bag of cups for the coffee. Kari pulled a wooden cup from his pocket; telling me it had been given to him thirty years ago, when he was eight. "Do you know the proper way to 'break in' a wooden cup? ... It must be first filled with cognac." Well coffee had to do for now but cognac has to be next in my cup which Paavo had made for me!!! Kari and Paavo were very pleased when they found out I had not been in the Finland woods, in the snow (about 9" deep, and -15C (5F)) and had not sat around for coffee and sausage. Frankly so was I, pleased and honored to be there.

Paavo retired from farming about two years ago and the pasture land now sits idle. He continues to work around the farm - he has four years of firewood cut, split and stored in the barns! He and his wife travel annually and have visited Bulgaria, Dubai, Ukraine and Russia, among others.

Around 1400 (supposedly sunset) we carried the trees to the trailer and tied them down and went back to the main farm buildings. Kari went into one of the sheds, and after about ten minutes, we were able to start his twenty-year old snow mobile he bought about five years ago. We each did some loops over a nearby field and then together went for a ride down some back roads. I can't imagine racing these things. Worse than a boat for steering; maybe the new ones are better.

Back to the house to warm up and then drive back to Oulunsalo to unload the trees. By that time, 1700, I walked two blocks and met Mary Ann coming from the bus stop.


22 December 2001, Saturday
Sunrise/sunset 1025/1408
High/low -22C/-27C (-17F/-8F)

The first and second grade students performed a Nativity play in the Oulu Cathedral at 0900. One class provided rhythm instruments to support the songs. The rest of the school was the chorus with songs between each scene. The program was concluded with the orchestra (strings and flutes) playing a few songs. Then we walked back to the school in -18C (0F) weather, handed out report cards and wished everyone Happy Holidays.

24 December 2001, Monday
Christmas Eve
Sunrise/sunset 1026/1410
High/low -7C/-20C (19F/-4F)

For Christmas Eve we joined the Thompson family for a church service at 1400. When the service was over it was dark outside. We headed to the city cemetery to leave candles for loved ones that have died. What a spectacular sight with candles aglow and powdery snow falling like glitter from the sky. We headed back to Pirjo and Craigs house for a cold meal of salmon eggs, smoked salmon, herring, beet salad, and wine. Then the men and boys all had a sauna, a dip in the pool and then back into the sauna. Next we heard sleigh bells and Santa arrived with a bag full of gifts; Audrey, Timmy, and Taylor had obviously been good this year. The children thanked Santa by Taylor playing Christmas songs on his violin and his sister and brother singing them. After Santa left, we sat down to a hot meal of turkey, smoked white fish, rutabaga, carrots, beet relish, and a chocolate mousse dessert. Also we had homemade eggnog by Craig. You dont find eggnog in Finland; you only find Glgi, so the eggnog was a treat. We came home around 2300 and started calling our family in the states. We didnt get to bed until 0300. Thank goodness for dialpad.com.

25 December 2001, Tuesday
Christmas Day
Sunrise/sunset 1026/1410
High/low -8C/-14C (18F/7F)

We woke up Christmas Day and got ready to go to the Rees. They have two boys that were excited to show us all the Lego dinosaurs Santa had brought them. Jenni and Garth are from Australia and Garth works for Nokia. They have been in Finland for three years and their oldest son is at our school in the Fourth Grade. Again we had this wonderful meal that was never ending. We started with a chicken appetizer and champagne. Then we sat down for poached white fish with a great wine sauce and a green salad. Next we had a champagne sorbet that was followed by steak, scalloped potatoes, pearl onions, broccoli, peas, carrots, and a broiled tomato. We had a variety of cheeses, biscuits and fruit after dinner. The meal was topped off with cappuccinos and a Christmas fruit cake. Throughout the meal was wonderful conversation. What a lovely day!!

26 December 2001, Wednesday
Boxer Day
Sunrise/sunset 1026/1412
High/low -12C/-16C (10F/3F)

The stores have been closed since noon on Christmas Eve and will not open until Thursday, December 27th. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are spent with families and then on Boxer Day people go to visit their friends.

I cant believe how fast time is flying. I have completed my first term; so our experience is half over.

If I were to summarize Christmas in Finland for me, the things that come to mind would be electric candelabras in everyones windows, ice candles as you walk up the driveways, music Christmas concerts, both instrumental and choral, an unbelievable amount of good food and fellowship with friends. We really are not so different.

Mary Ann

John Ill add that it is, for us, a white Christmas and we are reminded of that whenever we walk outdoors and the white snow crunches underfoot. We miss our family and have been fortunate to be included in the activities of many families here in Finland.

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The musicians await Santa Lucia. (2013)

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Santa Lucia bringing the light to chase away the dark days of winter. (2016)

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Paavo and Kari searching for the "right" tree. (2035)

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John searching for a tree with the "right stuff". (2037)

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At -15C you stay bundled up and close to the fire. (2040)

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Paavo and John. (2041)

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Camp coffee cooking on burner number one! (2043)

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Loading up. (2045)

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Kari off for a ride over the fields after a two-year break. (2053)

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We are going to have a white Christmas! (2056)

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Santa has their undivided attention! (2072)

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Santa has her undivided attention! (2079)

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Pirjo and Craig, proud parents. (2086)

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Garth Rees, at work in the kitchen. (2101)

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Marion, Bruce and Jenni. (2102)

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Garth cutting the fruit cake with four layers of frosting. (2105)

Last Update 2003 11 14

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