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Every year on the last Sunday of November Christmas lights are lit on, and a festive Christmas parade takes place, in the main streets of Helsinki. This event is the starting point of many festive Christmas traditions in Finland. The luminous holiday lights bring much needed brightness during this dark season when it gets pitch-dark before 4pm.
Our family tradition is to bring out the Christmas tree and decorate it right after the Christmas parade. Traditionally, the christmas tree is cut and brought from the forest, although I must admit that ours is an industrial version.
Our kids are in charge of decorating the tree. The ornaments are bought as a souvenirs from our trips abroad or received as gifts. It makes me happy to open the box full of Christmas ornaments every year as it brings back good memories!
Some of the dearest ornaments are made by my three children...the collection is getting bigger each year. Some ornaments are made at daycare or at school, some made as handy crafts at home.
As each ornament has initials and the year, the children recognize their masterpieces as they dig them from the box shouting "I made this one at Kindergarten"!
The Christmas season gives a special feeling to our everyday life and surprisingly the ordinary craft moments at home gets more exciting than usual.
A typical Christmas ornament in a Finnish home is a traditional elf (tonttu in Finnish), the important helper of Santa Claus. Aarikka's elves are very popular, the renown Finnish design brand has been making them since the 60s.
The below three elves are from a DIY kit I bought from a craft shop and they might look very simple but it was quite challenging and fun to make them!
My children's excitement for Christmas does not stop at decorating the tree; they like to decorate the whole house with their drawings and to rehearse and play concerts and make puppet shows.
One of the exciting traditions during the Christmas season is an advent calendar.
During the recent years, I've noticed increasing popularity of advent calendars with chocolates or legos inside of them, also in Asia.
I guess the joy of getting something small every day applies to children everywhere!
Our advent calendar on the left side is self made.The hanging advent calendar on the right side is bough from Paris and has a piece of chocolate in every pocket mainly for adults.
For kids, we put stickers, small legos and sweets randomly into 24 small bags for each day before Christmas. During the weekends we like to prepare a treasure hunt for finding the gift bags.
The traditional advent calendars with pictures are also popular.
This year a Tonttu from our neighborhood dropped us two of these into our post box.
As it's getting closer to Christmas Eve, shops selling real Christmas trees appear in the streets of Helsinki. The small trees cost from 20€ to 100€. They smell very nice and my children wish we bought one, but I am afraid of the needles making a mess at home. The fresh Christmas trees last for a couple of weeks, but after that, they need to be discarded.
In December, daycares and schools have Christmas plays. Typically the children put on a red elf hat on and perform dances and songs to welcome the Christmas season and wrap up the semester. Usually, my kids are not interested in going into stores, but when Finnish department store Stockmann opens its annual Christmas window, they must see it! The window full of dreams is a must see if you visit Finland this time of the year.
Of course, The carousel at the Christmas market on the Senate square in Helsinki is also a must. And while you are there, don't forget to taste the Finnish mulled wine called glögi which you can enjoy with or without alcohol.
Cover Photo by Visit Finland / Krista Keltanen
I’m a Japanese freelance editor, shooting coordinator and a mother of three children.
Magazines I’ve edited/contributed to: SPUR, BRUTUS, In Red, SPRING.
Our family moved from Japan to Helsinki in December 2011 due to my Finnish husband's work.
On my free time, I enjoy cooking, handicrafts and traveling. I would love to write about timely topics of Finland.