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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Christmas in Santa's Land



Christmas is the most celebrated holiday in Finland and the festivities culminate on Christmas Eve when Finns traditionally take a sauna, enjoy Christmas delicacies, relax with family and friends and, if they’re lucky, get a visit from Santa. However, the Christmas season starts as early as November with an abundance of activities.


St Thomas markets set the scene for Christmas

St Thomas market is a great way to start Christmas preparations and get on the Christmas mood. According to the Finnish tradition, Christmas is brought to the homes by St. Thomas on December 21 and taken away by the St. Knut on 13th January. By St Thomas day on December 21 all Christmas preparations should be ready.

The markets are known for their handmade Christmas decorations, ornaments, handicrafts, gifts and baked goods, such as hard ginger bread. For many visitors one of the highlights of the markets is the hot mulled wine, Glögi that helps to ward off the crispy winter air.

Turku Christmas Fair at the Old Great Square creates a Christmassy atmosphere for the townspeople. The stalls sell premium quality products as all of the handicrafts and baked goods are chosen by a specific jury. This year, the fair takes place on four weekends before Christmas starting on November 28.

St Thomas Market in Helsinki Esplanade Park is the biggest Christmas market in Finland with close to 150 vendors in red wooden stalls. On weekends Santa Claus visits the markets and a Finnish Christmas pageant Star Boys is played. The market is open daily from December 7 to 20.

Lucia with crown of candles brings light into darkness
On St. Lucia’s Day on December 13 thousands of people gather at the Helsinki Cathedral to watch a young woman to be crowned as St. Lucy, or simply Lucia. The crowning is followed by a procession through the city where Lucia greets the public wearing a white gown and a crown of lingonberry twigs and candles.

Lucia tradition is based on the legend of virgin-martyr St. Lucia, who was killed during the persecutions of the Christians in 304 AD. The commemoration day of St. Lucia is December 13 which used to be the shortest day, the winter solstice, under the old Julian calendar.

Lucia is a symbol of charity, compassion and light and the festivities entail a collection of money for a good cause. Lucia is elected from a group of young female candidates. The tradition came to Finland from Sweden and has been celebrated in its current form since 1949.


Santa Claus, Father Christmas and the original Joulupukki
Santa Claus, or Joulupukki in Finnish, is known to reside in the North East of Lapland, on the Korvatunturi Fell. The legend tells that the Korvatunturi Fell has a unique shape of an ear that allows Santa to hear the wishes of the children from around the world.

Luckily Santa doesn’t spend all his time at Korvatunturi, but visits for example the capital of Lapland, Rovaniemi, situated on the Arctic Circle.

Santa Claus Village open throughout the year hosts the Santa Claus’ Office where you can meet the Santa himself and Santa Claus’ Main Post Office where you can observe the flurry of the festive season. Cards, letters and parcels sent from Santa Claus’ Main Post Office are franked with a special Arctic Circle postmark, which you can’t get anywhere else.

Through the years Santa Claus of Finland has received over eight million letters. He gets over 600 000 letters every year from over 150 countries. The address to Santa is: Santa Claus, Santa Claus Village, FIN-96930 Arctic Circle, Finland.
Entrance to the Village is free. For more information on Santa Claus Village visit www.santaclausvillage.info

SantaPark is a Christmas fantasy world build inside an underground cave cavern where bustle of the elves continues all year round. The guests can bake and decorate gingerbreads in the
Gingerbread Kitchen, learn elf skills in the Elf School or make Christmas decorations in the Elf Workshop. SantaPark’s Sleigh Ride takes the guests through the four seasons of Finland and plunges straight into the elves’ toy factory, where the presents for upcoming Christmas are already being made.
Entrance is 20€ for children, 25€ for adults. Winter season, November 28 – January 10, open daily 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. For exceptions in the opening times and further information visit www.santapark.com


The City of Turku declares Christmas Peace
The Declaration of Christmas Peace on December 24 at noon marks the official beginning of Christmas. Thousands of people gather to listen to the declaration that has taken place at the Old Square in Turku since the 1320's almost uninterruptedly, with only a few exceptions.

The declaration is addressed to "all the townspeople" and is nowadays completed with a humanitarian and ecumenical message. The present-day Christmas Declaration was written down from memory by the Town Clerk after the Great Fire of Turku in the early 1800’s. The Declaration has been aired on radio since 1935 and televised since 1983.


For more information please see
Visit Finland at www.visitfinland.com
Visit Finland image bank at www.imagebank.visitfinland.com
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