Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas at the Home of a Typical Finnish Family

In Finland, Christmas is celebrated on the December 24. This year, 2009, I celebrated it with a Finnish family, in Helsinki. We didn't do it like Rock Stars but we had a lot of fun.

On the morning of December 24, I woke up, energized like every other day. But I did something different - set up a Christmas tree. While setting up the Christmas tree, it struck me that I was no longer excited about a Christmas tree as I used to be. In the past, I'd threaten to set it up on December 1. But here was I, setting up a Christmas tree on December 24.

After setting up the tree, we set out for the family home. As we drove through the city of Helsinki, there was a lot of traffic. The roads were jammed with people driving to and from the Malmi cemetry. That's when I was told Finns traditionally visit cemetries on December 24, to pray for the dead. Did you pray for the dead on Christmas day?

After about 15 minutes drive, we arrived at the family home. On arrival, we placed our gifts under the Christmas tree. Food was not ready yet, so we were offered drinks. There were assorted wines and beers. As usual, I went for red wine. 20 minutes later, we were ushered to the dining table.

The menu included the following:
  • Kinkku (Christmas ham)
  • Porkkana-lanttu and imelletty perunalaatikko (3 different stews made of carrots, swede and potatoes)
  • Keitetyt perunat (boiled potatoes)
  • Punaviinikastike (red wine sauce)
  • Kylmäsavulohta (cold smoked salmon)
  • Lohenmätiä with smetana and sipuli ( salmon roe served with smetana and onion)
  • Etikka silliä and -sipuleita ( pickled herring and onions)
  • Sienisalaattia (mushroom salad)
  • Rosollia (which includes beatroot, apple, pickled cucumber, carrot) with wipped cream
  • Herneitä (peas)
  • Karjalanpiikakoita ja munavoita (Karelian pasty and egg butter)
  • Maksapatee (Liver patée)
As we ate, I could not help but think about those who have nothing to eat (even on a day of "plenty" like Christmas day). I thought about those caught in armed conflicts, running away from their homes on Christmas day, those in hospitals in the forgotten parts of the world, with nothing to eat. Is there something I can do? I wondered. These thoughts punctuated my conversation on the dinning table, especially as I watched all the food, which we clearly could not finish.

After the meal, we retired to the living room and continued winning. Then came time for gifts - we exchanged gifts. Everyone was excited. I got many gifts - a pair of shoes, a pair of winter shocks, a pack of chocolates, playing cards and a Master Mind code-breaking game. Awesome!

At the end of the day, I count myself lucky to have had the opportunity to celebrate Christmas 2009 in a typical Finnish fashion. Celebrating Christmas in Finland, no doubt, is a PLUS to my wealth of experience. Hope you had a Merry Christmas!

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