Experience a true Northern Christmas

2 minute read

Credits: Virpi Mikkonen

How do the Finns celebrate Christmas?

Everyone knows Santa Claus comes from Finland, but there’s more to a traditional Finnish Christmas than Saint Nick and presents. During the festive season, Finns like to take things slow and enjoy the company of loved ones – with a side of mulled wine and sauna.

White landscapes shrouded in darkness, lit only by stars in the sky and ice lanterns on driveways, set the mood for a cosy festive season. For most, Christmas preparations in Finland start by deciding where to spend it. At home with family is a common choice, but some families rent a cottage or villa in the countryside.

Food also plays a central part in Finland’s Christmas celebrations. Pork roast is the main dish in most households and it’s served with a variety of fish, casseroles and salads. The traditional Christmas Eve breakfast is rice pudding. Later, after a couple Christmas ales, carols are sung with gusto. At the end of the night, a warm Christmas sauna relaxes one’s body and soul.

Credits: Juho Kuva

Traditional Finnish Christmas food

The Finnish Christmas food traditions vary around the country, but there are still a few staple dishes intrinsic to this wintery feast. An oven-baked ham served with mustard is an absolute must for many, but an assortment of fish is also considered an essential part of traditional Finnish Christmas dinner. Vegetarian courses include a classic beetroot salad and various oven-baked root dishes like the popular rutabaga casserole.  

Sweet pastries such as prune jam tarts, spice cakes, and rice porridge are Finnish Christmas delicacies beloved by people of all ages. One of the most cherished tasks of Christmastime is decorating gingerbread, which is often hung from the branch of a beautiful spruce tree.

Learn more about Finnish Christmas markets.

Finns hang wreathes made of spruce branches and other organic materials on their doors at Christmastime.
Credits : Jussi Hellstén
Gingerbread cookies are a staple of any Finnish Christmas. Another Christmas delicacy is the spicy bundt cake, or ‘maustekakku’ in Finnish.
Credits: Lauri Kivikataja

Gingerbread and wine before Christmas sauna

Finnish Christmas wouldn’t be the same without gingerbread, spicy mulled wine and wood-fired sauna. These things truly embody the holiday spirit.

A hot cup of glögi (mulled wine) and a gingerbread cookie are must-haves during the Christmas season in Finland.
Credits: Jussi Hellstén

Glögi – Finnish mulled wine

“Glögi”, a type of mulled wine, is the favoured hot drink at Christmas. It’s usually made out of red wine or red fruit juice mixed with spices like cardamom and cinnamon and served with raisins and almonds.

Credits : Lauri Kivikataja
Credits: Visit Tampere / Laura Vanzo

Ice lanterns – Finnish Christmas decorations

Self-made lanterns are popular Christmas decorations that light up the wintry darkness. Craft an atmospheric lantern of small snowballs, or try making one out of ice. Let a water bucket partially freeze outside, pour the water out from the middle and place a candle or a led light inside the frozen shell. You'll be surprised what a difference a simple lantern can make -  a dark Arctic night becomes cosier in an instant.

Make sure to also check out other fun activities in Finland during the winter.



Credits: Jani Kärppä

When is Christmas in Finland?

For Finns, Christmas Eve is the main event of the holidays and the night Santa brings gifts for children. Santa's visit is undoubtedly the most anticipated Finnish Christmas tradition amongst the smallest members of the family. Apart from the delightful number of opening presents, the Christmas Eve traditions typically include drinking glögi, having a Christmas dinner, and bathing in a Christmas sauna. Midnight Christmas mass is a tradition for many.

Did you know that Santa lives in Finland? Find out how you can pay him a visit.

Credits: Visit Rovaniemi

See also

Traditional Finnish celebrations and parties

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