Traditional Christmas Greeting: "Hyvaa Joulua"
Location: Scandinavia
Tree Type: Traditional

Decorations:

  • The star is on top of the tree and symbolizes the star of Bethlehem.
  • The angel is to remind the family of the religious significance of the season
  • Candles were originally homemade but now days they are electric.
  • They symbolize the words of a popular Finnish Christmas song, "The tree blooms with candles which light up the dark winter nights." Candles always light up the tree.
  • Straw ornaments: The first ornaments were made of available materials. These ornaments consist of angels, stars snowflakes and saints.
  • Apples used to be a rare delicacy in the winter. The children polish the apples to high gloss. Then they are put on the tree.
  • The elves (Joulupukki) are Santa's helpers. They are made out of homespun gray lambswool witha touch of red yarn.
  • The flags represent Finland's independence.
  • Garland represents international influences on the Finnish traditions.

Traditions: The Christmas season begins in October when groups get together and begin making Christmas decorations. At this time Christmas parties or little Christmas (Pikkujouulu) are held. This tradition began in the 1920's. On the first Sunday of Advent the traditional song, Voggler's "Hosanna" is played in all the churches. There are also Advent concerts held in the evening. In most Finnish home a small table holds the four Advent candles, also on this table are crosses (Tuomaanristi) carved of wood or the crosses of St. Thomas. Branch wreaths are hung on the doors and a traditional straw mobile (Himmeli) is hung from the ceiling. This ornament is made from straw softened in the sauna and cut to equal lengths. It is then threaded to make triangles, squares and eight sided figures. Finnish people also celebrate St. Lucia day, which was introduced into Finland in the 1920's.

Before the Christmas Eve festivities, the family takes a cleansing steam bath (Sauna) and puts on fresh clothes. The tree is decorated on Christmas Eve morning. At noon on Christmas Eve, the "Peace of Christmas" is proclaimed in Turku, the old Medieval capitol of Finland. Most families take part of their Christmas Eve dinner at this time.

At sunset, on Christmas Eve, Finns make their way to the graveyards and cemeteries, where a service is held. Candles are placed on the graves. The Finns also celebrate the day after Christmas St. Stephen's day. Fortunes are told on New Years Eve They can be told in different ways, from object hidden under cups to casting molten tin into a bucket of cold water. The resulting sculpture is held up to the light. The image formed by the shadow, are omens of the future. Christmas celebrations end on the twelfth night. the Epiphany.