Christmas is a funny little thing. Funny in the way that everywhere around the world people have very specific Christmas traditions that are followed religiously. Our family ain’t no exception: Christmas is probably the most important event to us any given year.
Our ‘family’ also includes cousins, aunts and uncles, which just magnifies the importance of this season. Especially because while some of us may be unable to participate in somebody’s birthday party or even a wedding, Christmas is something that nobody wants to, or is allowed to miss. No matter where our significant others may be spending their Christmas, we will be with our family.
We always spend Christmas together with our cousin, and as I live abroad Christmas is sometimes the only time of the year when I get to see him. Christmas is not a religious celebration for us at all, it’s purely about family getting together to enjoy good food and simply spend time together.
Here’s a wee look at what our Christmas traditions are:
Our Christmas morning starts with breakfast. But it’s a special breakfast because it’s this sort of rice porridge that we only eat on Christmas morning. It is delllicious and there is always an almond hidden in the porridge. And whoever finds that almond can make a wish for the coming year. I think in my entire 30 years’ worth of Christmases I’ve found the almond once…
At 12 in the afternoon we gather around the TV (or to the city center, but since it’s so cold and crowded out there we prefer the TV option) to watch the city officials declaring the Christmas Peace. A tradition that goes back all the way to the Middle Ages. After that we make a trip to the cemetery lighting candles on the graves of our passed loved ones.
The Dress Code
Clothes are a way of expression, as we know. There are no big traditions for dressing up in Finland, but in our family dressing up is vital part of our Christmas traditions. It’s a sign of respect to the people you spend the day with.
I like this Christmas tradition enormously, because I’ll dress up any time I can get away with it! I prefer to wear dresses that have a loose hem so that I can stuff my face with as much food as humanly possible without looking like an over-stuffed animal at the end of the evening.
The most important Christmas tradition of them all: FOOD! My mum and her sister take it in turns to organize Christmas, this year it’s again our turn. So, we gather together and chill the heck out.
Before dinner we drink some glögi and catch-up with everybody. Since we meet properly like this so rarely, there’s always a lot of catching up to do! Mostly with me, because I tend to move country quite often, switch jobs, and have my whole life turned upside down every couple years. This is one of those years.
After we’re all up to speed on which country I currently live in, and where I plan to go next, it’s time for the most important Christmas tradition: Christmas dinner. Every country has their own traditional Christmas dinner, and in Finland the table consist of
- A whole pork coated with mustard
- Different kinds of fish; cured and fried salmon, and different kinds of herring
- Turkey (because I never liked pork but goodness that turkey is delicious!)
- 3 kinds of casseroles; potato, turnip and carrot (Finns have secretly always been vegetarian at heart)
- Mushroom and beetroot salads
- Steamed peas
- Boiled potatoes
These can vary a bit since these days a lot of families in Finland ditch the pork and replace it with turkey or vegetarian options. Also the casseroles are missing from many tables because they take a lot of time and effort to make, and are perhaps not the favourites of the younger generations sitting at the table.
Dessert is usually something including plum and/or chocolate… A lot of chocolate!
After the dinner has been demolished it’s time for another very important Christmas tradition: to deal out and open the presents! I remember the times when me and my brother would count the presents we got and compare the numbers with our cousin. Cousin always won with the biggest number of presents received.
Now that we’re all grown up, and the things we need and want are substantially more expensive, the amount of presents has decreased dramatically. One present I can always count on is a package from mum containing socks and underwear. And it’s one of those gifts I look forwards to more and more each year :D I like a practical gift!
Opening the presents is always good fun no matter how old you are! And then going around the room to see what everybody else got, and laughing at the gifts that were given with a story from the past year attached.
Like my grandmother laughed her ass off when me and my brother got our mum a tiny toolbox so that she can fix things in her new apartment. Grandma wouldn’t laugh anymore, though, if she knew how much use mum has gotten out of that toolbox!
After marveling at everybody’s gifts we often settle down for some proper cozy time with Christmas drinks. My godmother always gifts herself a new board game on Christmas, and at some point we gather around the dinner table to play. And often laugh our asses off in the process.
Along the evening the games will change, people will move away from the games to chat, and more food is served. Atmosphere is always jolly and relaxed, for just one night nobody needs to go anywhere.
I love Christmas. I never want it to end. Every single year I wish it would go on a bit longer and then a bit more. Family may be the worst sometimes but on Christmas it is the best.
And even if it’s only once a year, it’s good that we’re all reminded of the importance of family, and that everybody understands it without needing to force someone to participate (like was sometimes the case when our boys were teenagers).
We make compromises all year round with our work, our relationships and our goals in life but on Christmas we will not compromise. :)
What sort of Christmas traditions do you have and what’s your favourite thing about this jolly season? ♥
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