Since the Middle Ages crowds have gathered in Turku to hear the Declaration of Christmas Peace. The declaration has been broadcast on radio since 1935 and on television since 1983, and watching it is a tradition in Finnish families.
The Declaration is a signal to calm down and begin the celebrations… All of Finland shuts down and becomes quiet: phones stop ringing and families retire inside their homes to celebrate Christmas. Everyone tries to behave quietly and peacefully.
On Christmas eve breakfast often consists of rice-porridge (riisipuuro), with one almond hidden inside to bring good fortune to one lucky member of the family. Then families gather around the television for the declaration of Turku, and then many head to the cemeteries to place candles on loved ones’ tombs. Cemeteries are parks in Finland, and all the candles look very beautiful in the snow.
After the visit to the cemetery, many take a sauna and then settle down to dinner which consists of many traditional dishes… this is what my family eats:
Glögg or mulled wine , served hot with raisins and almonds
Cured salmon (graavattua lohta)
fish roe with smetana, a kind of sour cream (mätiä ja smetanaa)
beetroot salad (rosolli)
ham cured in salt water and then slowly baked with a mustard crust (kinkku)
sweetened potato bake (perunalaatikko)
swede bake (lanttulaatikko)
carrot and rice bake (porkkanalaatikko)
gingerbread cookies (piparkakkuja) and a gingerbread house (piparkakkutalo)
Christmas stars made with dried prune filling (joulutorttuja)
Dried prune soup served with chilled cream (luumukiisseli)
The reason for the dried prunes is that traditionally there were not many fruit available in winter time. We always have tangerines and oranges on the table at home.
Candles are a very important part of winter in Finland, and traditionally the Christmas tree was decorated with little Finnish flags and real candles, but these were forbidden some years ago because they were dangerous. Many still decorate their trees very simply and discreetly and the ”tonttu”, little gnomes, are also a very important part of waiting for Christmas, because all Finnish children know that Santa’s helpers keep an eye on all children to see if they are good.
Santa Claus , or ”Joulupukki”, brings the presents after dinner; often the doorbell rings and a sack or basket is found outside the door, because of course Santa does not have time to stop at every home! 🙂