A White Christmas in Finland

A White Christmas in Finland

Christmas in Finland

Bing Crosby sings “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas . . . Just like the ones I used to know.”  I love that I can say, “yes” I’ve had a white Christmas of my own.  Have you ever had one?

I was fortunate to have my one and only White Christmas in 1983 when I was 13 years old.  My mom took my sister Andrea & I to Finland to be with our Finnish family for the holiday. It was truly amazing even despite the fact that I literally thought I was going to die from the cold!  What is a So Cal girl doing in the Arctic Circle???  Minus 40 degrees is unimaginable to anyone who lives here & that experience was when I decided that Hell is NOT hot- it is VERY COLD!  The pain I felt physically has been unmatched in the 29 years since.  To top it off it is dark there all day – the sun just touches the horizon for a brief moment then it goes back down.  Twelve noon in Finland seems more like the moments just before sunrise in So Cal.  But it was the most gorgeous Christmas experience I have ever had . . .

Here are some of my special White Christmas memories:

•        Santa’s Visit – Santa Claus or “Joulupukki” as he’s known in Finland, visits every home on Christmas Eve.  Families have a wonderful time feeding him traditional Finnish treats & telling him what their wishes are.  Here, we have to go to the mall to visit Santa but there, he comes to you twice!  Once to visit then again to load up the tree with gifts.

•        The Candy Stand – My cousin Kimi took my sister and I on a walk in the snow & darkness to buy candy & look at the fireworks for sale.  We threw snowballs at each other on the walk, slipped on the ice covering the ground & laughed hysterically the whole time despite the language barrier.  Kimi thought it would be funny to get his American cousins salmiakki or salt licorice.  It comes in various strengths & we had grown up on the mild version of this black licorice – no problem, right?  Boy, were my sister & I surprised when he gave us the strong recipe.  Andrea & I were jumping around, drooling, screaming & in our faces total pain from popping a piece of the candy in our mouths!  We chased Kimi all the way back to the house while he laughed at us.

•        OPEN WINDOWS IN -40º ! – Finns love fresh air.  They are very health conscious & enjoy the outdoors all year round for the freshness of nature.  My grandma (Mummu) would open all the windows in her home to let in the fresh air each day.  I must admit it was incredibly refreshing even though it was so dang cold!  Ever since I’ve had my own home, I find that I do the very same thing.  It doesn’t matter if it’s cold & raining, I open the windows & enjoy the amazing crisp air flowing thru my house.  It must be in my genes…

•        My Uncle Pepe & Aunt Arja watching over us as we played outside – I could only stand the cold for a few minutes but my sister was out there for hours.  Pepe & Arja made sure she had her fill of the snow- showing her how to sled, make snow angels & tossing snowballs.  Pepe even played with us on the frozen lake at the family’s summer cottage (mökki)!  We tried ice-skating, ice fishing & riding a bike on the ice- it was truly amazing.  The mökki only has an outhouse, no indoor bathroom so you can imagine sitting down on a frozen seat to do your business. Pepe & Arja even helped us navigate the outhouse!  They are the most fun & loving aunt & uncle a kid could ask for!

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Via French by Design

I will always be grateful for my White Christmas with my Finnish family.  My cousins Susu & Samu were very young so we didn’t get to really play with them much but is was wonderful to be with them.  My Uncle Pekka also came over for Christmas & I must tell you how amazing he is.  He is mentally handicapped but is fully independent.  He lives on his own, has his dream job as a chef, has mastered the public transportation systems & is engaged to be married!  So inspiring…

My White Christmas was much more than just an extremely cold & snowy holiday far from home.  I learned about the importance of family.  No matter the physical distance, cultural differences & language barriers- FAMILY IS HOME.  I love my Finnish family, I miss them terribly & love them with all of my heart.  They are the most amazing, wonderful, comforting, welcoming & loving people I have ever known.  I only wish I could travel to see them more.  My heritage is something I am proud of & I want my Finnish family to know how much I love them.  I couldn’t ask for a more beautiful group of people to share my bloodline with.

To my Finnish family- Mummu, Pepe, Arja, Paula, Olska, Pekka, Kimi, Camilla, Emma, Susu, Safir, Aisha, Aaliya, Amira, Samu, Maiju, Luka, Cassu- Rakastan sinua enemmän kuin voin sanoa.  Ajattelen sinua usein ja kaipaan sinua niin paljon. Vyyhti teitä siitä, että perheeni!

(My mom said that the last sentence is crazy [hullu]!! – it’s supposed to mean I love you more than I can say. I think of you often and miss you so much. I’m thankful for my family!)

Merry Christmas or Hyvää Joulua!

Have you ever had a White Christmas? or a Christmas overseas? Where was it & with whom did you share it?

Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Molly grew up in and around funeral homes her entire life. In 2009 she began working for O'Connor Mortuary and found a bridge between her passion for writing and her interest in grief and bereavement. In 2016 she earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. She is honored to be able to write about these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective.

14 Comments

  1. […]    Example:During Christmas, an O’Connor Mortuary Employee wrote about their favorite Christmas memories. Read it here. […]

  2. Susu says:

    Dear Carrie, hyvää joulua!
    We are truly amazed how good memory you’ve got. This was lovely story and so good to hear how nice experience you had in here. We want you to know that we love you too and wish that you could come here more often! Missing you so much…

  3. Shayna Mallik says:

    Wow Carrie you painted such an amazing picture of your Christmas in Finland. Sounds extremely cold but beautiful! Snow is so nice during the Christmas season, my family is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania so I have had my white Christmas’s. The only thing that I do not enjoy about the snow is the cold that is involved. I am a So Cal girl at heart and will always be. I always think that I would have more respect for White Christmas now that I am older and would enjoy it more. Rather than when I was little and all I did was complain how cold and icy it is. Thank you for another great blog.
    Merry Christmas!!!!

    Shayna

    • Carrie Bayer says:

      Shayna, I’ve been to Pittsburg in the winter & snow- it’s dang cold! Thankfully it was just for a few days… I’m right there with you, a So Cal girl all the way & complain about the cold. Maybe you should give it another try now that you’re older, you may be pleasantly surprised at how much you enjoy it. I hope your Christmas is wonderful! XOXOX Carrie

  4. Anne Collins says:

    Carrie
    A Fabulous memory! Thanks for sharing. Well, I have had enough white Christmases for all of you and no matter how tired we get of dirty snow by March – April (Yes the snow banks pick up the exhaust from cars and become dirty before they eventually melt away), we always hope and pray for a White Christmas. It doesn’t seem right if the snow is not covering the ground. I have a lot of wonderful snow memories.
    Since we lived in California after we married, we made sure to take little April to the snow around her birthday in early December every year. As soon as we knew there was snow, off we trekked for the day. We taught her to make snow men from a toddler and shared our memories of white Christmases as we made a snowman or snowballs, sledded if there was enough, even when we only had a piece of cardboard if we didn’t come prepared. We lived a year in Michigan when April was in her late teens and she got the full effect of a truly white Christmas and being “snowed in”.
    Love
    Anne

    • Carrie Bayer says:

      Anne, I’m so glad you have had many White Christmases (sp? Molly, help me…) and are willing to spread them around to those of us who haven’t. I bet April really loved her birthday snow days & looked forward to them each year. I know that there are a lot of Finns in Michigan & that they chose it for the climate being so similar to their native one- crazy Finns! Thank you so much for string your story! XOXOX Carrie

  5. Pat says:

    Carrie:
    I can’t imagine the beauty you must have seen there. That is a cold we would never experience here. Interestingly enough, when I got in my car this boring the temperature gauge read 35 degrees! Really cold

    I’ve never had a white Christmas. As a matter of fact, I’ve really never seen real falling snow. So you talk about Southern California girls . . . I’m really one. My family and I have always talked about renting a cabin in Arrowhead for the holidays. You have encouraged me to make that happen. I would love to experience that just once with my family.

    Thanks for sharing your heritage with us. My kids have Norwegian blood running through their veins. Maybe someday one of them would experience a “heritage Christmas”.

    Pat

    • Carrie Bayer says:

      Pat- I’m a big pansy when it comes to the cold & I’m right there with you when it drops below 50 degrees- I think I’m freezing to death. I really hope you do rent a cabin in Arrowhead for some snow time, you will be so glad you did. It is truly amazing to experience something like falling snow & extreme cold. And you must get to Norway! Scandinavia is so incredibly beautiful- but I recommend that you go in the summer…… XOXOX Carrie

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