Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas cards overview

It came to my mind to make a short overview of the Christmas cards I got this year.
Looking at the cards sent from Finland and from Poland I can see a clear difference.
Some of the Polish cards present Santa Claus or the Christmas tree, some are amusing but most of them  refer to the birth of Christ, present Nativity scenes or the Three Wise Men.

The Finnish cards in general present a different approach. I have seen mostly cheerful elfs, Santa Claus, reindeers, the forest animals and snowmen.

I see every year cards with photos of the animals with the christmas hats on (tonttulakki).
I must admit that I have mixed feelings about them, maybe because I got used to the religious Polish cards. Anyhow my son asked me to buy the cat and the dog card to 'decorate' our kitchen, so we have these ones home also:-).

There are of course also Finnish earnest cards wishing the Peaceful or the Blessed Christmas (including picture of church, Jesus, angels or candle), and the winter nature scenes cards, often with photos or ilustrations of the bullfinches (punatulkku) or forest.

I would like to present also a very original Christmas card I got this year, reproduction of work of the Finnish artist Reetta Isotupa-Siltanen:-)

Ach! and of course the handmade ones which my sons created this year:

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas Everyone!

"Christmas is a time when you get homesick - even when you're home". Carol Nelson

I find this quote adequate to this blog but not because I am Pole spending Christmas in Finland.
I noticed, that Christmas brings to my mind thoughts about Christmas of my childhood, so no mater where I spend Christmas nowadays I would miss Christmases from the old times.
It was a magical time and the whole world seemed to be envolved into a celebration.
On the Polish Christmas Eve supper all the family members gather togehter to fulfill tradition of breaking off and exchanging parts of the opłatek (wafer baked from pure wheat flour and water).
It is symbol of  exchanging blessings and good wishes.
Christmas Eve in Poland is a day of fasting. At the appearance of the first star starts the Christmas Eve supper but there is any meat on the table. The main dish is fried carp and beetroot soup - while in Finland a main dish on a Christmas Eve supper is joulukinkku (Christmas ham:-) 
There is also Midnight Mass celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.
My father used to buy a real Christmas tree to our home, and I remember each of over hundred of baubles and other decorations.
We used to visit different churches to admire the Nativity scenes and the Christmas trees and lights. The Christmas carols in Poland are numerous, beautiful and very popular not only in churches.
Im sure that every Pole of my age remembers 'Christmas oranges', cause during communist time oranges and lemons were available in Poland only around Christmas time.
Santa Claus used to visit Polish children on 6th of December. (Finland's Independence Day:-)
Tradition of exchanging gifts during
Christmas came later from abroad. It appeared in our family when I was already teenager.
I will finish with another quote: "There's nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child". Erma Bombeck

Merry Christmas! 
Hyvää Joulua!  
Radosnych Świąt Bożego Narodzenia! 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

pre-Christmas hurry in Finland

Finally today I write the 1st December post in this blog. Last weeks were surprisingly hurry.
There is a tradition of pikkujoulu in Finland. Literally it means "small Christmas".
Pikkujoulu is a pre-Christmas party organized by seems like every workplace, company, office, school, kindergarten or club. The character of the party can differ, but you can always expect to taste there some glögi (mulled wine) and piparkakut (ginger biscuits). Commonly pre-Christmas parties include traditional Finnish Christmas food like Christmas ham, rosolli (salad with boiled beetroots, potatoes, carrots, apples and pickled cucumber) and the potato, carrot, rutabaga and liver casseroles. The pikkujoulu season starts already in November.
My 3 years old son attended pikkujoulu in the kindergarten, where kids were i.a. singing, making Christmas decorations and baking ginger biscuits. My 7 years old son had pikkujoulu at school, another one arranged by the Polish school and the 3rd one with his colleagues from the wrestling trainings.  
There was also pikkujoulu arranged by our neighbours, financed by the housing company.
You do not need to be very social to be invited to some pikkujoulu. It is enough to be a part of some society or group of people, and actually everyone belongs to some group for which pikkujoulu is arranged. There are also open pre-Christmas parties for everyone. 
Another pre-Christmas event is "Kauneimmat Joululaulut" - traditional Finnish carol service held at the Lutheran churches. There is also tradition of the Christmas markets, where you can buy Christmas decorations, handcraft, food, sweets etc.
The streets and many houses are decorated with the Christmas lights. Santa Clause will visit us on the Christmas Eve, so the shopping centres are extremely busy. Cleaning and decoration of the house, sending Christmas wishes to family and friends, buying gifts and the Christmas tree ... sometimes I feel like it is too much to do before Christmas, but from the other side I think that the events and duties to fulfill during the Advent season keep people awake in these dark cold days.