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Christmas is very important in Finland - just like in Germany. It is the most important festival of the year, for which young and old can look forward to weeks in advance. And yet there are of course also differences in terms of traditions, culinary preferences and specialties. I spoke to four German emigrants who told me how they experience the Christmas season in Finland, what they may be missing in the far north and what things they have come to love. You also have the opportunity to win a bottle of Glögi of your choice. All information about this at the end of the article!
Foto: Jasmin Räsänen
Jasmin Räsänen comes from near Bremen but has been living with her Finnish husband in Pieksämäki north of Mikkeli since November 2013. Four years ago she started her own business and designs, writes and sells crochet patterns. The 37-year-old does not find the pre-Christmas season in Finland as intense as in Germany. “Cookies are baked and a few Christmas films are being watched, gifts are being bought and I'm happy about the first snow, but something is missing. For me it is probably having the family around me. Strolling through the Christmas markets together, baking the biscuits, listening to Rolf Zuckowksi's Christmas bakery.” So Jasmin gets a little homesick every now and then at Christmas.
This year the family will spend the Christmas season in Finland - Christmas Eve with part of the husband's family and the Christmas holidays probably as a couple. What are the differences to Germany in terms of customs? “It was new for me to go to the cemetery for Christmas to light candles and to go to the sauna in the evening. Otherwise it's like in Germany for me. You are with the family, watch TV, eat together, exchange gifts, go for a walk and just spend a few quiet hours or days,” Jasmin reports.
She has taken a few Finnish specialties that are served at the festival in her heart. “I'm really looking forward to the joulukinkku [Christmas ham] and some riisipiirakka with salmon. A must for me is some lanttulaatikko. But this year I'll also be making potato salad, which I've missed at Christmas for the last few years,” says the native of Lower Saxony, who maintains a bit of German customs even away from home.
Foto: Maria Berz
Maria Berz made her home in the northernmost municipality in Finland. In Utsjoki, she works as a Wilderness Guide, among other things. On the Facebook page of her company Into the Nordic Wilderness. You can admire her beautiful photos from the far north. "This year I will be spending my third Christmas here in Lapland," says Maria. “It was actually planned differently, but as with so many of us, Corona has thwarted my travel plans. Although I am disappointed not to be able to be with my family, I am also infinitely grateful, because I am healthy and can spend this difficult time surrounded by wonderful nature."
In Utsjoki, Christmas is kept very simple, Maria observed. “The lighting on the houses is limited. You can't buy Christmas trees here either. Every year in the run-up to Christmas I go into the 'forest' and look for felled or fallen pine trees. It's not that easy here, because Utsjoki is above the pine line and there are only a few conifers left. Fortunately, I have always found what I am looking for”, laughs the emigrant, who originally came from near Frankfurt / Oder. She decorates the pine branches with jewelry that she has collected over the years and thus connects the traditions and memories from Germany, her former home England and now Finland.
For Maria, a highlight of Christmas in Finland is a typical Finnish specialty. “During Advent, I often bake the delicious 'joulutorttu' - the Finnish puff pastry. I enjoy the finished joulutorttu with Christmas music from all over the world and a strong cup of coffee. ”In December, the polar night prevails in northern Lapland, the sun does not rise again until mid-January. December 21st is the winter solstice and also the shortest day up here. “We only have twilight during the day for a few hours. So Christmas falls here in the darkest time. But at long nights there is also cosiness and dark hours are also a prerequisite for the northern lights. For a Christmas walk here, I like nothing better than to hear the snow crunch below me and watch the northern lights dance in the sky. Because they really are the most beautiful Christmas lights”, enthuses Maria.
Foto: Sarah Senf
Sarah Senf moved to Seinäjoki in the west of the country in 2008. The photographer lives there with her Finnish partner. “I'm an absolute Christmas person. I bake a lot in the run-up to Christmas. Mainly the German cookie classics. The apartment is decorated and Christmas music, whether Finnish, German or international, is heard and played”, explains the 32-year-old. Since the Christmas season in Finland is very dark, the emigrant is happy about the beautiful Christmas lights in the windows of the houses. “A difference that struck me: the Christmas lights of some people in Germany are sometimes very exaggerated, colorful and flashing. In Finland it is more subtle and classic”, Sarah observed.
Germans are very fond of Advent in Finland, especially when there is snow. It doesn't get boring in the small town. “There is usually a lot of cultural Christmas entertainment in Seinäjoki. In the years before Corona, I always tried to attend at least one Christmas concert. There are also Finnish pikkujoulu celebrations, of course, which are always very funny”, reports Sarah. She will still spend the Christmas holidays in Germany. "I have actually never been here for Christmas since I've lived in Finland."
Compared to her Central European homeland, Sarah feels the mood at Christmas time in Finland is less hectic. “I think the Finns don't get into Christmas stress that much. Everything is a little more relaxed and there is not so much given away.” She made big differences with regard to the Christmas dinner. “I think Christmas ham and the various casseroles are okay. I think it's a shame that many Finns buy the finished items in the aluminum bowl from the shop.” Sarah is personally looking forward to goose, red cabbage and dumplings. With Joulutorttu and Piparkakku, however, she cannot resist either. “I love them! Otherwise, the Finnish Christmas is pretty similar to German Christmas. People are with families and some go to church on Christmas Eve. You know Santa Claus in both countries. "
Foto: Josi Habermann
Together with her partner Markus from Switzerland, Josi Habermann has fulfilled her big dream: her own husky farm in Ivalo, Finland. “Christmas 300 kilometers above the Arctic Circle is in itself a fairytale phenomenon. The perfection of this magic lies in the foolish obsession of the Finns for their beloved Christmas. How much can be seen from the Finnish month name for December. Literally translated it means 'Christmas month'. Here in Lapland, the time of darkness, candles, peace and the crunch of snow begins at the beginning of November. What I used to see as frowned upon in Germany is suddenly completely legitimate here: Already in mid-November I am humming Christmas carols, marveling at the falling snow, while I pull out the decorations for our Christmas tree from the back of our wooden house", says Josi happily.
The emigrant identified a very big difference between the Christmas season in Finland and Germany: “The constant and unconditional nature enhances the feeling of homeliness more than artificial decorations could do. Snow-covered fir trees whisper while the northern lights scatter Christmas shine in the sky. Everything looks festive and elegant in a natural way”, says the German, who is almost enchanted by her new home in Lapland. No wonder that Josi and Markus have far fewer "additional" flashing lights than was previously the case in Germany. "Only the nutcrackers from the Ore Mountains keep watch on the mantelpiece until they are carefully packed in their boxes in mid-January and go to sleep," laughs Josi.
For the two nature lovers and animal lovers, the Christmas feeling is only really over when the sun is clear and firm in the sky again at the end of February and the cozy candles in the house are exchanged for skis and ice fishing rods under the bright sun. “But that day is still a long way off. Right now, at the end of December, we are enjoying the mauve-colored landscapes of the Kaamos period - which I would not exchange for any sparkling Christmas market lights in the world. And if the memory of fragrant hats, Christmas stollen or loved ones in Germany hurts too much, the wonderful Finnish blueberry glögi still helps, the operator of the sustainable husky farm located on a small lake has a recipe for "Germany woe" ready. Finnish delicacies such as rye bread, freshly caught, smoked fish with self-collected juniper branches and of course Christmas coffee with cinnamon and cardamom also sweeten the Christmas season in Finland.
In our Christmas raffle, you can win your favorite Glögi: either the Finnish Marli-Glögi 0,5l without alcohol or the Blossa-Glögg 0,5l with alcohol. Just tell us if you prefer glögi with or without alcohol! You can take part by clicking on the competition posting on our Facebook or Instagram page and leaving a comment on the name of your favorite Glögi.
Participation in the competition is possible until Sunday, 27. December 2020. The winner will be notified in writing.
Conditions of participation for the favorite Glögi competition:
We would like to thank all customers for the numerous orders during this extraordinary year, which was a challenge for all of us. With the discount code KIITOS10 you get a 10% discount on your order until December 31st, 2020. In fact, you will pay a total of 13% less due to the reduced VAT rate by the end of the year.
Text René Schwarz
Cover photo Maria Berz
About the author:
René Schwarz grew up half Finnish and bilingual. The freelance copywriter and author travels regularly to his second home country and loves to share his passion for Suomi with others. He has also been doing this on his blog FinnTouch since the beginning of 2016, where you can find Finland travel tips, interviews with Finnish artists and very personal stories. Have a look! www.finntouch.de
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Prices are tax included