Christmas in Finland

chrismas tree
Image by p u n t o via Flickr

In the Finnish home the Christmas tree is set up on Christ­mas Eve. Apples and other fruits, candies, paper flags,cot­ton, and tinsel are used as decorations, and candles are used for lighting it.

The Christmas festivities are usually preceded by a visit to the famous steam baths, after which everyone dresses in clean clothes in preparation for the Christmas dinner, which is gen­erally served from five to seven in the evening.

Christmas gifts may be given out before or after the dinner. The children do not hang up stockings, but Santa Claus comes in person, often accompanied by as many as half a dozen Christmas elves (in brown costumes, knee-length pants, red stockings, and red elves’ caps) to distribute the presents.

The main dish of the dinner is boiled codfish served snowy white and fluffy, with allspice, boiled potatoes, and cream sauce. The dried cod has been soaked for a week in a lye solution, then in clear water to soften it to the right texture. Also on the menu are roast suckling pig or a roasted fresh ham, mashed potatoes, and vegetables. After dinner the children go to bed, their elders staying up to chat with visitors and drink coffee until about midnight.

Christmas Day services in the churches begin at six in the morning. It is a day also for family visits and reunions. In some parts of the country the Star Boys tour the countryside singing Christmas songs. During all these days the people keep wishing each other a “Merry Yule.”

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