As you know, the gorgeous houses and garden buildings we build for our clients are manufactured in Finland, which of course means that here at Scandinavian Homes, we’re big fans of the Nordic countries (well, the clue’s in the name!). We’ve even got a member of staff who speaks [very rusty and out of practice!] Norwegian! We thought that it would be a fun idea to tell you a little about some of the traditions that are practised in Finland at this time of year, as well as some from Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland. After all, the Scandinavians invented the concepts of hygge, fika and lagom, all of which seem very appropriate at Christmas, and most especially for this Christmas, after what has been such a tough year for everyone.
So without further ado, let us tell you a bit about what our Scandinavian cousins get up to at Yuletide.
In common with their geographic neighbours, the Finns place a great deal of importance on Christmas Eve. This is their family time, when they decorate the tree (if they haven’t been impatient and done it already), spend some time in the sauna, eat Christmas dinner and exchange gifts. In Turku, the oldest city in Finland, the cathedral bells ring out the ‘Christmas Peace’ at noon, There’s also a tradition of someone dressed as Santa turning up on the doorstep asking whether there are any well behaved children in the house.
In Iceland, it’s tradition to give books as gifts on Christmas Eve, and then to go to bed early to read your new book.
Finland is, of course, the home of Father Christmas, who can be visited at home all year round in the Santa Claus village (https://santaclausvillage.info/), unless you’re from Denmark, in which case his workshop is in Greenland, or from Iceland, where they have 13 different Father Christmasses (the Jólasveinar, or Yule Lads), who steal your stuff rather than bringing you presents, and their mum, Grýla, who sniffs out badly behaved children and puts them in a sack to take home and cook for dinner. Also part of this unpleasant family is the Jólakötturinn, the Christmas Cat, who eats any children who haven’t been given new clothes by Christmas Eve! We think we prefer the Finnish version!
Christmas Day in Scandinavia is for visiting friends and eating the leftovers (a bit like Boxing Day here in the UK).
Not entirely surprisingly, real Christmas trees are a big thing in all the Nordic countries. They simply don’t do fake ones, and they’re not big on tinsel either. Oslo in Norway supplies a Christmas tree for Trafalgar Square every year, and has done since 1947, and the Finns have been sending one to Brussels since 1954.
We’re all aware that our Scandinavian friends like a drink or two, and Christmas is no exception. Denmark brews a special beer just for Christmas, called Julebryg and it’s only on sale for 10 weeks each year. Most of the Scandinavian nations have a mulled wine that comes into season around Christmas, called glögg, or variations thereof depending on the country, and even tee-totallers are catered for specially with soft drinks called Julmust (Sweden) and Julebrus (Norway). They take this Christmas business very seriously up there in the cold North!
We hope you enjoyed this whistle-stop tour of Nordic Yule traditions, and all that remains is for us to wish you Hyvää Joulua! God Jul! Gleđileg Jól! Merry Christmas!