13 - 26 December 2001
Christmas In Finland
13 December 2001, Thursday
Santa Lucia Day
High/low 4°C/-1°C (39°F/30°F)
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 Glögi and Christmas
ginger snaps for everyone.
19 December 2001, Wednesday
High/low -8°C/-15°C (18°F/5°F)
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 -15°C (5°F)) 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.
A GREAT DAY!
22 December 2001, Saturday
High/low -22°C/-27°C (-17°F/-8°F)
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 -18°C (0°F) weather,
handed out report cards and wished everyone Happy Holidays.
24 December 2001, Monday
High/low -7°C/-20°C (19°F/-4°F)
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 Craig’s 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 don’t find eggnog in
Finland; you only find Glögi, so the eggnog was a treat. We came home around
2300 and started calling our family in the states. We didn’t get to bed
until 0300. Thank goodness for
25 December 2001, Tuesday
High/low -8°C/-14°C (18°F/7°F)
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
High/low -12°C/-16°C (10°F/3°F)
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 can’t 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
everyone’s 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.
John – I’ll 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.