Christmas and NY in Finland

Many of my friends have asked me why I didn’t return back to England for Christmas. There are several reasons, I had already returned home in November to celebrate Eid with my family, at home I have never really celebrated Christmas (coming from a different religious background) although we have the occasional turkey, and most of all I decided to experience a Christmas here in Lapland. The Christmas spirit has been around for the best part of two months now, lights have been put up around the city in all shapes, colours and sizes, and best of all glogi is being sold everywhere! Walking through the city I heard Christmas songs being played, and the roaring Christmas market stall keepers encouraging passer-bys to buy their typical Finnish artefacts such as sledges, furs, knives, skis, ice-skates, and let’s not forget the fresh salmon being served all day.

Though Rovaniemi is a fairly quiet city in comparison to those in England it became perceptibly more crowded during this period, tourists had come to visit from all corners of the world, British, French, Chinese, and the list goes on. There were also a lot of Finnish people who had returned back home for the holidays to see families which seemed to counterbalance those who had left however the majority of international students seemed to have gone back home, leaving a few diehard leftovers to wander the streets. Nevertheless, it was impressive to see how we all managed to come together at this time to make the most of a day that is supposed to be spent with family, and despite there being a huge pressure to conform during this time which may cause some upset as we didn’t have a traditional family circle, we all celebrated the festive day together. Everyone cooked some food, we even had a measly Christmas tree and the whole event seemed to go rather smoothly, albeit the minor horror of somebody’s hair catching on fire...but what’s Christmas without the drama?

The days after Christmas passed by a little slower but it was always good to have some time off especially when having time to contemplate is a rare luxury within Erasmus. All the same, I decided to visit the ex-capital Turku with a friend just before the New Year. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised, it was always great to see some more historical sites, studying in Rovaniemi, a city which was practically rebuilt after the Second World War, makes you appreciate the authenticity of other locations. The cathedral of Turku definitely augmented the city’s appearance, together with the Turku Castle, the largest surviving medieval building in Finland.

I ended my year on Senate Square in Helsinki. The traditional speeches and fireworks had been duly set up, and accompanied with light tunes by Philomela Choir and the rhythm group of Sambic Dance School. This was followed by a poem recital from the poet Sinikka Vuola, and finally the stage was taken over by Paula Koivuniemi with her orchestra and her star visitor Vesa-Matti Loiri. The event culminated with a brilliant fireworks display which could be seen from the harbour and beyond, and was a dazzling start to the year 2011.


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