Christmas and the New Year in Finland

There are some typical foods and drinks consumed in the Christmas season; they are listed here in Finnish and English:

kinkku – ham
porkkanalaatikko – carrot casserole
lanttulaatikko – swede casserole
perunalaatikko – potato casserole
perunat – potatoes
erilaiset kalat – different fish prepared as desired, usually salmon and/or herring.
rosolli – salad that includes radish and apple
jouluolut – Christmas beer
glögi – juice based Christmas drink
suklaakonvehdit – assorted Christmas chocolates
riisipuuro, sokeri ja kaneli – rice porridge, sugar and cinnamon

 

Christmas trees are popular, as they are in the US. Our tree does not have lots of fancy ornaments but it still looks nice. There are a few of the presents under the tree at the moment.

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Our Christmas Tree

Christmas decorations are put up according to the desire of the individual.

Christmas lights are occasionally put up outside, but I have only seen white strands; inflatable lawn ornaments and flashing, multicolored outdoor Christmas decorations are rare.

Remembering the deceased is an important part of Christmas for many people. It is common to go to the cemetery on Christmas Eve and light candles, which are left around the gravestone.

Going to Sauna on Christmas day is very common.

There are usually many opportunities to go and sing Christmas songs somewhere or listen to Christmas concerts. Many people attend at least one of these.

Going to church on Christmas Eve is as common here as in the US.

Visiting and having visitors in the days around and on Christmas is typical. My host family has visited or been visited by coworkers, cousins, family, and friends.

Santa, who lives in Lapland, comes in the evening on Christmas Eve. He enters using the front door, like a normal person.

Gift giving is common. It is, perhaps, less of a big deal than it is in the US because it is customary to bring a gift whenever you go to visit someone. The presents under the tree are usually opened in the evening on Christmas Eve.

On New Year’s Day, fireworks are set off. Many people either get some for themselves, watch those set off by others, or both.

Thank you to my host brother for helping me compile this list.

I hope that you would have a blessed Christmas and a pleasant New Year!

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Developments

Hello

It’s been hard for me to write a post recently. I’ve been busy with school and when I do get a chance, I never write anything I like enough to post. I’m not sure why.

A few weeks ago, I took a trip to Vaala, Finland for the day to give a number of presentations to the students at the school there. I talked about the Finnish community in the US where I’m from, and I discussed some other topics with students as they suggested them. In the end I presented for the whole school day. Overall, I think it went rather well. I was happy to talk with the students, and I hope they learned something. The teachers I talked with were quite interested in me and pleased I had come to speak (I had come by invitation). I thought it was interesting that people wanted to hear about the things I shared.

After giving all those presentations, I went to a hockey game in Oulu. It was interesting to watch. The players seemed to play more sloppily than I was used to, and the teams weren’t the best in the league, but they were evenly matched, which made for a interesting game.

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My Finnish is improving. I would say that there is a very noticeable difference from when I first arrived. Now, I’m able to follow basic conversations, random dialogue, questions, and I can guess the meanings of Finnish words with reasonable success. Last week I met a young woman who asked my host brother (who was with me at the time) if I could speak and understand Finnish, and I answered for him. It’s pretty cool. Learning Finnish was never at the top of my list of priorities, so it’s interesting to see how far I have come just by being here. Some people have advised that I push hard to learn and use the language, but I find that such effort isn’t necessary in the long term.

Speaking of priorities, my priority on this trip has always been to learn about as much as I can, because I feel that is one of the main reasons God has put me here. I think God put me here for other reasons as well, but I cannot know what they are, so I don’t focus on them so much. I just work on doing my best with whatever work is before me.

I have noticed that I no longer notice the differences between life here in Finland and life in the US. Everything is natural and normal. In a way, Finland has become another home to me. Here I have family, friends, work, routine, and everything I need for this part of my life. It’s fascinating, especially after only five months here. I have to credit God for this, he set it all up.

It’s interesting, how many things are interesting to me. I think it’s a good descriptor of things for me though. I think everything is interesting.

In the past while, I have been having trouble figuring out what to do or think about certain things or just in general. I think a lot, and it becomes difficult to keep track of what it right. To help with this problem, I’ve started a list to keep track of them. The list includes bits from the Bible that shed light on the subject, as well as some personal observations about how I work. I think it will be very helpful as time goes on. Whenever I wonder about something, I can read the list and remind myself of the things that I know.

One of the things I have noticed about myself over the past years is that I have a strong desire to love people I am near- to care for them, encourage them, help them, and so on. I think it’s great, but it is rarely reciprocated. This isn’t good, because people tend to want love reciprocated, and when it isn’t it can be depressing and/or frustrating. To try to solve this issue, I tried not loving the people I’m near to, but that puts me in a bad mood. I wonder if I had someone in particular that I could love and who would love me back would satisfy the desire…perhaps.

School is going rather well. I’m managing to do fairly well in all my classes. I’ve been learning how to use Photoshop and Illustrator in two of my classes, and that’s been exciting. I enjoy working with those sorts of programs. I’m getting pretty good at it too, in my opinion. Dancing is going well enough; we have been working on a waltz and a circle dance. I like it, but I wish it were more personal. (I have always seen dancing as more of a personal thing)

Christmas here in my home is a rather pleasant thing, in my opinion. We put up the tree this evening. People have been playing Christmas music now and then. We have a few decorations up around the house, here and there. There has been some variation in the food, which is nice. All the food tastes good.

My host family and I went to a singing of Christmas songs at church last Sunday evening. The idea was to sing Christmas songs and then donate to the charity that printed the lyric booklets used that evening. The event seemed to be rather popular, the church was full. I believe there were over a thousand people there. I think it’s interesting that so many people are interested in going to that event, but the normal Sunday service attendance is so much lower, at less than one hundred.

That’s all I have to say for now. Feel free to ask any questions, I’d love to help answer them for you. Have a great day 🙂

 

 

Finnish Independence Day

Hello

Today is Finland’s 99th Independence Day. It’s a national holiday, and there were some happenings in town. First, there was a church service. I was not able to attend. Next there was an outdoor military ceremony, which I was able to attend. Over one thousand troops from the Kainuu Brigade were in attendance. A general gave a speech, and another man did as well. The whole event took about half and hour, and was followed by pea soup for all. It was pretty cold, about -2 degrees Fahrenheit, and the soup did an excellent job at warming us up as well as tasting pretty good. After that, we walked a couple blocks to the street that runs through the downtown area and watched a military parade. We had the opportunity to see the troops again, and we also got to see a bunch of military vehicles, which ranged from motorcycles to tanks to tractors to artillery. Four jets flew overhead, in tight formation, followed by some other planes and a number of helicopters. It was all quite interesting. The parade lasted around an hour, perhaps a bit less. After the parade, there was a military demonstration, but I was too cold to stick around and see it so I went home with some of my family. I was so cold that I wasn’t able to take many pictures, and the pictures that I did take were not good enough to merit exhibition on the blog; however, the day’s activites have been documented by others, and you check out some pictures at the Finnish Defense Force’s Facebook page if you like: https://www.facebook.com//pg/puolustus/photos/?ref=page_internal

The amount of value people here seem to put on Finnish culture varies. I grew up in a community that seemed to think rather highly of Finnish culture, so this is interesting for me to see. The people I have talked to about this say that they see negative and more real parts of Finnish culture and life as well as the positive, and I believe that is why people here hold somewhat lower views of these things as compared to those in my home community. For example, Finnish high schools aren’t necessarily the learning utopia that some believe exists here, depression is a very real thing, and the neighboring Sweden is better than Finland in several areas. I suppose it would be similar to the international perception of the United States that gives the image of freedom and opportunity; it’s true in a way, but that’s hardly the whole story. An interesting thought for international perception of any country.

I have been doing alright. It’s been a tad rough in different areas in the past few weeks. I believe it’s because many things have been changing here recently, and I’m having to adjust for these new circumstances. I’m getting through it though, with God’s help.

Have a nice day!