Beating the winter blues

8 January 2010 | This 'n' that

Helsinki Cathedral. Photo: Hans Põldoja

We’ve passed the solstice, so in principle the days are getting longer; but as we drag ourselves back into the office after the holidays, the mornings and evenings still seem pretty gloomy. We’re not complaining; further north, as the radio weather forecast reminds us daily, it’s even darker. Here, sunrise is after nine and sunset before four; further north, in Utsjoki, right up in the Arctic, it set in late November and won’t rise again until 16 January.

Still, even here, any glimmer of light is welcome. All over the city, at this time of year, SADS cafes spring up, with high-intensity light sources to combat seasonal affective disorder or, as we call it in the vernacular, the winter blues. The effect, especially after a couple of hours spent in an editorial board meeting, can be electrifying.

For the past two years, the City of Helsinki has made a spectacular contribution to lightening our darkness, bathing the graceful 19th-century Lutheran cathedral in coloured light. This year the cathedral show, called Reflections, designed by Mikki Kunttu, played with the building by turning it into red brick or growing vines along its walls, accompanied by music composed by Kasperi Laine.

This year there was also a new installation, called Oratoribus, a more abstract homage to the architectural qualities of the Parliament House building. Both shows finished this week, but the Season of Light website has a nice ‘Light up Parliament House’ page where you can design your own light show.

The Season of Light website is also running a competition for suggestions for the buildings that should be lit up next year. Books from Finland has recently moved to the House of Nobility, a fine Neo-Gothic 19th-century building which, we feel, would benefit from some extra light next winter. It will definitely be getting our vote.

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