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Sleigh Your Way to Santa – Spend Christmas in Festive Finland
Every year, we lay out cookies and milk, we leave the space under the tree bare, ready to be filled with presents, hoping that a visitor will come bearing gifts for all at home. We hear the jingle of the sleigh bells and the bellow of his laugh as he slides across the night sky, bringing joy to all.
But what if we did things a little differently this year?
Why not return the years of gifts and visits, by going to see Santa in his home? This Christmas, take a flight to Finland to experience a festive season of icy beauty and delicious warmth. The traditions here date back to the 13th century and stretch for almost 2 weeks. Draw in the sweet smells of baking, the spicy notes of mulled wine, the crisp snap of ginger and the soft melt of baked ham. Sink into the soupy warmth of a Finnish sauna as the snow flutters outside. Take advantage of the blankets of snow and indulge in all kinds of winter sports. Shop and share gifts with loved ones. Visit Santa’s village.
Sounds tempting right? Well, let’s hope you haven’t made any plans for Christmas, because we have a feeling they might change. It’s time to indulge in some Finnish festivities!
Christmas Days, Finnish Ways – Traditions of Finland – Christmas in Finland 2019
Have you booked your tickets slightly early? Well don’t worry! The Christmas season kicks off in Finland on the first Sunday of December, also known as the First Advent. Unofficially though, Christmas shopping begins even before that. Christmas markets, festive window displays, and Christmas events all begin in November. The week before Christmas, sees these celebrations taken to a new level as locals bring their Christmas trees home (although the tree decoration is usually saved for the night before Christmas Eve). Make sure you’re on the street for the singing procession on St. Lucia Day. The procession is led by a young girl dressed in snowy white wearing a crown of candles.
In most Nordic Countries, the festivities reach a crescendo on Christmas Eve. First, there is the Christmas Sauna – a tradition that dates back centuries. The sauna is filled with the warmth and glow of lanterns and candles. Sauna oils diffuse in the warm air, while crisp towels are stacked neatly for you to dry yourself. Don’t forget to bring a present or sweets for the sauna elf!
The next tradition is the Christmas dinner – filled with all the rich flavour and hearty warmth of casseroles, ham, fresh beetroot salad, pates, aspics and smoked salmon. Keep your ears primed for a knock on the door – it’s Santa bearing presents for all the good children. Christmas Eve is also that special moment when the presents are unwrapped.
At Noon, “Christmas Peace” is proclaimed in Turku – the oldest city in Finland. This is a tradition that goes back to the 13th century. You may also hear (if you are in the region) the deep ringing of the bells at Turku Cathedral, or you can watch it on the television – it’s an essential part of the traditional Finnish Christmas.
Christmas Day and After
Finland settles into a peaceful and serene state on Christmas Day. Families relax and children play with the toys they unwrapped the night before, tables are filled with leftovers and the day is meant for rest. On 26th December, Boxing Day, locals venture out to visit families and friends. If the weather permits, you can step out for a brisk walk or to partake in the winter activities with your family.
Helsinki is, undoubtedly, a Christmas miracle. Stroll along Aleksanterinkatu Street, which is festooned with gorgeous Christmas decorations. Helsinki is filled with beautiful handicraft stalls, local food vendors and gorgeous church recitals at the churches spread across the city. Christmas lights spill out on every street, illuminating every corner. Local parades and celebrations fill the streets.
The Christmas Tree
The tree is set up in Finnish homes by 24th December latest. A star is placed on top and the branches are festooned with sweets, stars, elves and apples (in relation to Adam and Eve).
Santa’s Playground – Rovaniemi
When Santa isn’t on his sleigh bringing presents for all, where does he go? To his village in Rovaniemi in Lapland, Finland. Rovaniemi is a magical place, especially during the Christmas Season, and offers the attractions of the Santa Claus Village and Santa Park for you to dive into.
In Rovaniemi, you can visit Santa at his office, send out letters and buy stamps and beautiful cards at the Main Post Office (or send a letter from Santa to your family and friends), join the elves at Santa Park, eat gingerbread at the Kitchen, walk through the Ice Princess’ Ice Gallery, ride on the Magic Train, enjoy the Magical Christmas show, and walk through the Christmas Exhibition.
If all this activity has you hungry for more, Santa’s Village has restaurants, bars, cafes, where you can eat your fill of Lappish, Asian, Italian and other global cuisines. There are also shops at Santa’s village that offer everything from local handicrafts to top Finnish products, including souvenirs, products made from raw materials of the north, Marttiini knives and more.
It’s not just Santa, elves, letters and great food at Santa’s Village. This little village is a gift in itself, with a plethora of activities for you to enjoy. Visit the Arctic Circle Husky Park and meet over 100 pure-bred Siberian Huskies (hike with them or take a husky carriage ride or safari), drift through snowy forests as you take a snowmobile safari at the Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park, spend the night in a warm Aurora Wagon as the Northern Lights flicker and dance above you, pet reindeer, sheep, goats, rabbits and rooster at the Elf’s Farm Yard Petting Zoo. Hold on though, because we’re not done! You can also go ice fishing and practice reindeer herding, take a reindeer sledge ride in Raitola and delight your inner child at the Snowman World Winter Zone.
What would Christmas be without the feast? The Christmas season brings with it an assortment of food. On St. Lucia Day, families enjoy cookies, buns, coffee and Glögi – a traditional drink made from red wine or red juice, infused with spices like cardamom and cinnamon and sprinkled with raisins and almonds. On Christmas eve, families eat soft rice porridge for breakfast or lunch. If you spot an almond in yours, your life will be blessed with great luck.
If you have a sweet tooth, then Finland is a place to satisfy that craving. Star-shaped pastries, iced gingerbread cookies, thick slices of fruity Christmas cake, berry compotes, tarts, pies, jellies and homemade candies.
Winter Activities to do While Enjoying Christmas in Finland
It’s understandable that your belts may be a little tighter during this season – this is restful season, filled with the lazy warmth of a sauna, the crowded Christmas table and rest and relaxation. However, Finland gives you the opportunity to burn those calories with a host of winter activities. Skiing and snowboarding are perfect for this season, given the wealth of snow that Finland receives. You can take dog sledding tour in areas like Nuuksio National Park (near Helsinki), Rovaniemi and Luosto (to name a few), sail on an ice breaker boat as it smashes its way across the frozen landscape, sleep in an snow hotel or an ice igloo, chase the Northern Lights, indulge in some ice karting, eat in an ice restaurant, cross the arctic circle and learn about the native Sami culture.
So, there you have it! Christmas in Finland is the perfect way to end the year. Stir in a little bit of wonder, a drop of warmth, a few flakes of festivities and finish a sprinkle of snow – this is Finland in Christmas, so drink it all in.
Contact us, on our website, or drop into a Thomas Cook branch close to you to book a Christmas vacation in Finland.