Heading out of a year of the many “firsts” that come with emigrating, we had one biggie left: The first Christmas in a new country. Which came with some adjacent “firsts”, like our first own Christmas tree and our first Christmas as a couple without parents or relatives.
Of course, being good immigrants interested in the culture of our new home country, we educated ourselveson how to properly celebrate Christmas like a real Finn. Finland’s public broadcaster Yle has a good article as a starting point. One thing we were aware of before was Suomipop hero Arttu Wiskari using a hamless Christmas (“Kinkuton joulu”) to signify his protagonist’s failure as a dad and man in 2020’s surprise summer hit about a caravaning holiday gone wrong. For us, on the other hand, having actual ham as Christmas dinner was unthinkable so we decided to mix-and-match between Finnish traditions, Central European tradition, and just what we liked most.
And then, of course, there was snow. Even though we’ve been told it’s not typical for the Helsinki region and quite special, a romantic snowscape is what you expect from Christmas in the Nordics - and that is what we got! Not having any deceased relatives on Finnish cemeteries and definitely not wanting to get involved with Germany-Finnish relationships during World War II, we decided to not light candles on war memorials or elsewhere, but instead go for a long walk on Seurasaari Island.
So after the traditional Finnish rice pudding breakfast, we set off.
The sunshine reflected on snow and the frozen Baltic Sea were sights to behold, and the winter air was cold and crisp. As stunning as they might be, the pictures still don’t do the day justice. Additionally, we witnessed yet another instance of “Winter is different for Finns”, in this case a dude on a cargo bike taking the short way from Meilahti to Seurasaari by going straight across the frozen Baltic Sea.
No matter how beautiful the sights or how crisp the air, at -18° Celsius you just get cold. So back at home, we continued Finnish traditions and went for Christmas sauna to warm ourselves up and clean ourselves, both physically and spiritually, for the coming of Christ, or at least an amazing meal.
The first course was a Finnish standard: Bread with two kinds of Fish.
For the second course, we went Central European with a local twist: Venison with mushroom sauce and berries, potato mash, and spinach. The berries Julia picked herself during our wedding anniversary weekend, and the venison was shot locally by a Finnish friend of ours.
And as a third course, we had a layered dessert from leftover rice pudding, plums, and plum sauce. Having dined (and wined) successfully and lavishly, all that was left to do was to relax on the sofa with the cats and conclude the most relaxing Christmas eve for a long time.