Despite the modern times we live in, Christmas in Finland is all about traditions that have been passed down through generations. Unlike most Christian countries where Christmas Day, December 25th, is the primary day of the Christmas celebrations, Finnish families traditionally gather together for festivities on Christmas Eve, December 24th. It’s also the day when the most famous person living in Finland, Santa Claus, visits well-behaved Finnish children with his sleigh full of Christmas presents. What else happens in Finnish homes on Christmas Eve each year? Let’s take a little sneak peek into a traditional Christmas in Finland. Christmas preparations; the lights, the decorations, the flavours Setting the Christmas spirit begins earlier each year. Christmas carols take over shop aisles, Christmas lights illuminate the darkening streets, millions of Christmas cards are sent to friends and family members, Christmas Markets are held, and sing-along Christmas concerts are organised all over Finland. Soon the approaching holiday season is visible in Finnish homes, too; colourful Christmas lights illuminate the gardens together with candles and ice lanterns, and the houses will be decorated with Santa’s Elves, reindeers, wreaths and Finns’ favourite Christmas flowers, poinsettia and hyacinth. With the delicious smell of gingerbread cookies and Christmas tarts floating in the air, Christmas Eve can finally arrive. Photo: Visit Finland / Jari Kurvinen (Vastavalo) Bringing in and decorating the Christmas tree Bringing in and decorating the Christmas tree is one of the oldest Finnish Christmas traditions that has remained almost unchanged since the 1800s. This year approximately 1,5 million Christmas trees will adorn Finnish households all over the country. For many Finnish families decorating the Christmas tree is the first thing to do in the morning of Christmas Eve as an official beginning of the best day of the year (especially if you ask children). The Christmas tree is often placed in front of a window to spread joy and Christmas spirit also among the people passing by. Enjoying a hot bowl of Christmas porridge – but who will find the almond? Another Finnish Christmas tradition dating back to the 1800s is Christmas porridge, traditionally made of rice and milk. Typically Christmas porridge is served with sugar, cinnamon and milk but can also be enjoyed with prunes, apricots or cloudberries. This traditional Christmas Eve breakfast includes one special ingredient: an almond. According to the tradition, good luck will follow the person finding the almond on their plate. Photo: Visit Finland / Ingela Nyman (Vastavalo) The Declaration of Christmas Peace At noon on Christmas Eve, the whole of Finland freezes when Christmas Peace is declared in several Finnish cities. The most popular and well-known event takes place at the Old Great Square in Turku where thousands of Finns gather to listen to the declaration every year. The ones who can’t make it to the gathering may follow the live broadcast on television or radio. This is the moment when the whole of Finland truly gets peaceful; shops will close their doors, and even the public transport gets quieter. Some shops will be shut throughout Christmas Day and Boxing Day, which is good to remember when spending your first Christmas in Finland. Honouring the deceased Another Finnish Christmas Eve tradition is to pay a visit to the graveyard and light candles on the graves of the past loved ones. At Christmas, all cemeteries from North to South are illuminated with thousands and thousands of candles. The stunning sea of candles in the dark December night is a sight not to miss. Christmas sauna – a tradition truly unique to Finland Christmas sauna is another ancient Christmas tradition Finns aren’t willing to forget. According to some studies, 80 per cent of all Finns go to the sauna on Christmas Eve. Some even state that the lack of Christmas Sauna might ruin the whole holiday. In some families, the sauna is heated up twice during the day; first before dinner and again late at night. Photo: Visit Finland / Harri Tarvainen There’s no meal like Christmas dinner After (the first) Christmas Sauna, it’s time for another Christmas Eve highlight; the dinner. Finns value traditional Christmas food with slowly-roasted ham being the king of the dinner table. Even if a vegetarian diet is becoming more and more popular, Finns still consume 6-7 million kilos of ham over Christmas. Besides the Christmas ham, also potatoes, casseroles, meatballs, fish and mixed beetroot salad are included in the traditional Christmas dinner – not to forget chocolate, Christmas pastries and gingerbread cookies, of course. ‘Are there any well-behaved children in the house?’ Tummies full of Christmas treats, it’s finally time to gather around the fireplace, relax on the sofa and enjoy some glögi, a traditional hot Christmas drink similar to Mulled Wine. Suddenly, a gentle knock on the door breaks the silence. It’s followed by a sentence familiar to all kids in Finland; ‘Are there any well-behaved children in the house?’ Who else could it be but Santa, the most awaited Christmas guest in all families worldwide and the one final highlight of a memorable Christmas in Finland. Photo: Visit Finland / Jani Kärppä & Flatlight Films Did you know that more than 300,000 tourists travel to Finland in December? Find the perfect rental cottage on Gofinland and start planning your white Christmas in Finnish Lapland now. Hyvää joulua!
Photo by Visit Finland/Soili Jussila Finland is a country of four beautiful seasons, all of which have their unique characters. Yet, most tourists visit Finland either in summer or winter. This is what most tour operators, travel sites and guides advice you to do, too. As summer is slowly drifting away and Finns are getting ready for the brisk autumn air, we want to embrace this beautiful season by revealing the secrets of autumn in Finland. There are plenty of exciting and exquisite things to do in Finland in autumn that you can’t experience at any other time of the year. Also, as most tourists consider autumn being between seasons, travelling to Finland in autumn is much more peaceful and cheaper compared to summer and winter. To some extent, autumn might even be the best possible time to visit Finland. And now it’s time to tell you why. Autumn colours should be on everyone’s bucket list The most visible sign of the approaching autumn in Finland is the vibrant colours of the foliage. ‘Ruska’, as we call it in Finnish. During this relatively short period, you can spot all the colours of a rainbow at one glance. Imagine standing by a blue lake while the autumn sun reflects all the reds, yellows, oranges and whatever is left of the green on the surface of the water. The air feels fresh, and the last warm rays of sunshine are gently touching your face. Photo by Visit Finland/Olli Oilinki Photo by Visit Finland/Carmen Nguyen Is there anything better than that? There are plenty of excellent ways to enjoy autumn colours in Finland. Here are a few of them: Go hiking Take a walk in a nearby forest, head for one of the 40 national parks in Finland or choose one of the most famous and well-built trails, like Karhunkierros in Kuusamo or Herajärvi Trail in Koli. Pro tip: It’s true that you can experience ruska as its strongest in Lapland, but it’s not necessary to travel all the way up north for autumn foliage. Try Porkkalanniemi in Helsinki, Turku Archipelago or Finnish Lakeland in Central Finland, for instance, to experience the true colours of autumn in Finland. Interested in hiking in Finland? Read our guide with the best trekking locations and trails. Photo by Visit Finland/Aleksi Koskinen Spend a day at a lake Autumn colours seem even more vibrant when admiring them from the lake. Few-hour foliage cruises are organised across Finland between the end of August and mid-October. Don’t hesitate to contact the tourist info of your travel destination in Finland to find out where the nearest ‘ruskaristeily’ takes place. Pro tip: Another great idea is to gather your friends and rent a sauna boat. As the name unveils, sauna boat is a small vessel with an actual sauna on board. They usually feature a comfy lounge and a small kitchen. The fanciest sauna boats are equipped with an outdoor jacuzzi. Sauna boats are available in various locations throughout Finland. Pump up the adrenaline on a marathon Ruskamaraton a.k.a. ‘Foliage Marathon’ is a popular running event that has been organised in Levi, Lapland since 1984. If hiking in a national park or climbing to the top of the Finnish fells isn’t quite enough to get your adrenaline running, Ruskamaraton should do the trick. Besides the excellent exercise and like-minded adrenaline junkies, you get to admire the beautiful autumn colours in Finnish Lapland. Finnish autumn is delicious – discover how to enjoy it There are reasons why hundreds of thousands of Finns can’t wait for September to arrive. Flowers might not be blooming anymore, but Finnish forests offer a wide range of other treats that anyone is allowed to enjoy. And they are delicious! In autumn, our forests will be full of wild mushrooms with approximately 500 edible species. Also, some of the most delicious vitamin-filled berries and wild herbs are at their best at autumn time. You’re allowed to pick mushrooms and berries almost in any forest. If you haven’t heard of Finnish ‘freedom to roam’, you can find our extensive guide here. Photo byt Visit Finland/Riku Pihlanto Try at least these mushrooms Besides the edible and delicious species, also poisonous mushrooms grow in Finnish forests. Therefore you should only pick the species you know. Some of the easiest and the most common ones are chantarelle, trumpet chantarelle, porcino, hedgehog mushroom and Russula decolorans. Learn to recognise these, and you won’t be leaving the forest empty-handed. Learn more about Finnish wild mushrooms here. Wild berries are the real superfood Picking wild berries is a perfect hobby; you get to enjoy some fresh air and other benefits of being in nature while filling your storages with Finnish superfood. No wonder the studies reveal that half of the Finns run to forests to pick wild berries every autumn. Some berries are perfectly fine for picking until they’re covered in snow and impossible to find. Try at least blueberry, cranberry, rowanberry, juniper berry, lingonberry and sea-buckthorn, to get started. Learn more about Finnish wild berries here. Photo by Visit Finland Enjoy fooling fish? Autumn is the best time to do it! Some might think summer is the ideal time for fishing in Finland. In reality, the cooling autumn waters put fish on the move. The fish swim towards their wintering areas in large shoals and stop for fueling in shallow waters where they’re easy to catch. Pike and perch often gather in shallow bays with reeds, whereas zander flocks in deep streams which makes it easy to snatch under bridges, for instance. Read more about fishing in Finland and find the best places to do it. Photo Visit Finland/Marko Tervonen Finland is a birdwatcher’s paradise As Finland is one of the northernmost countries in the world and also one of the easternmost in Europe, it’s possible to spot birds that are extremely rare in anywhere else in Europe. In spring and autumn, Finland becomes birdwatchers paradise when migrating species are taking over the [...]