A crafty Christmas

9 December 2011 | This 'n' that

Advent calendar: make one yourself! Illustration: Virpi Penna

December: the street decorations, which have been up for a month, are beginning to look a little tawdry; the office party season is in full swing and most people are beginning to feel a little the worse for wear; there are only – let’s not count them, but far too few, shopping days left till Christmas.

Festive stress has already set in, and we’re not even halfway through the month.

That’s the scene in London, at least.

In Finland, Christmas and the weeks leading up to it are a much more muted, not to say calmer, affair. The customary greeting at this time of year is ‘rauhallisia joulunalusviikkoja’ – ‘peaceful before-Christmas weeks’ (well, who isn’t afraid of Xmas panic…) and Christmas itself has a quiet, candle-lit, somehow pious quality (even for non-believers).

The tone is set by the announcement of the Christmas peace from the city of Turku at noon on Christmas Eve, and many people still begin their celebrations with a visit to the graveyard to set a lighted candle on the graves of nearest and dearest before proceeding to the festivities: the traditional Christmas dinner (with its centrepiece of ham, not turkey), followed by a visit by Father Christmas, preferably in person.

In the harsh weather and short daylight hours of this time of year so far north, staying in has a lot to recommend it, and making things at home in preparation for Christmas has always been a popular pastime – with children in particular. This year the Thisisfinland website together with Tammi publishers, in conjunction with the writer Mysi Lahtinen and the children’s illustrator Virpi Penna, has produced an online advent calendar with a crafts project for each day up to Christmas Eve.

Whether it’s making a snowflake window from cut paper, simply painting birch-twigs white or, if the climate permits, celebrating Finland’s Independence Day (6 December) by making a lantern out of snow and a candle, these are projects that can be tackled by the young, and the young at heart, of any age.

While Joulupukki may feel slightly stressed (but with him, of course, it’s an occupational hazard), we wish you a peaceful pre-Christmas fortnight!


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