If you are spending your winter holidays in Finland, it might be nice to learn the holiday greetings in Finnish.
Even though Finns are very much conversant in English, they will be undoubtedly impressed that you made the effort.
Let’s start with the most festive winter celebration and learn how to impress friends and family with a suitable greeting!
How to Say Merry Christmas in Finnish
If you aren’t familiar with Finnish letters, don’t be intimidated. Merry Christmas in Finnish or Hyvää Joulua sounds like “hevva-yowl-wa” when enunciated.
Don’t be too stressed with the pronunciation though, they are sure to get it. But it would help if you had a friend pronounce it once for you to hear and imitate.
Now that you’ve begun loosening your tongue, let’s move on to the New Year’s celebrations!
How to Say Happy New Year in Finnish
Onnellista uutta vuotta!
You might need a little practice on this one. Happy New Year in Finnish or Onnellista uutta vuotta sunds like “Onnelista-uwta-ota” said in one sweeping word.
It might be a bit of a tongue twister at the end but as you repeat, enunciating becomes easier.
And while it won’t help much with your pronunciation, make sure you that you reward yourself by listening to Loituma’s Ievan Polkka. It has nothing to do with Winter Celebrations, but it’s an amazing song you should hear, probably the most famous ever in Finnish.
Here are also some variations of the holiday greetings that you might hear over the season.
Hyvää vuodenvaihdetta! – Season’s greetings!
Hyvää talvilomaa! – Have a great winter vacation!
Lämpimiä toiveita! – Warm wishes!
Menestyksekästä uutta vuotta – Prosperous New Year!
Hyvää juhlakautta! – Happy holidays!
To further buffer your Christmas vocabulary in Finnish, here’s a list of words relevant to the season.
Joulu – Christmas
Joulupäivä – Christmas Day
Santa Claus – Joulupukki
Lumi – Snow
Lahja – Present/Gift
Seppele – Gift
Piparkakkutalo – Gingerbread house
Mistelinoksa – Mistletoe
Now that we’re equipped with some holiday vocabulary, let’s venture into some of the traditions that makes Christmas and New Year in Finland unique.
Before the main events, preparations for Christmas in Finland begins as early as December 1st which is known as First Advent.
Don’t be surprised if you find Advent calendars in all forms – from candy and chocolates, to normal paper calendars, and even Advent cubbies where you find small presents each day as Christmas approaches. Essentially, it is a countdown to the 25th of December.
Midway through the month, Finland celebrates St. Lucia Day. Expect to have a serving of traditional cookies and buns to be downed by coffee or “glögi” (mulled wine).
The martyred saint is depicted by a young girl wearing a white robe with a crown of evergreens and candles on her hair.
While you’re there, you might want to send a letter to Father Christmas (Santa Claus, of course!) who is believed to live in Korvatunturi (or Lapland) which is in the northern part of Finland.
Finland is also known for their long nights in the winter. Because of these, you will find lights decorating homes and streets to give cheer to the surroundings.
Animals are also given a taste of the festivities. Farmers leave a wreath of wheat, oats, nuts and suet for birds and animals to munch on.
The celebrations cover two days – Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Be prepared for scrumptious pork leg with over-baked mashed potatoes.
The Finns love their vegetable casseroles and smoked or cured salmon, so expect to find that, too!
One interesting Christmas tradition in Finland, which is also found in several countries in the region is the serving of sweetened rice porridge.
In Finland it is called Riisipuuro and is mixed with a variety of fruits. Hidden within the porridge pot is a single almond.
This is coveted by those partaking of it – the who finds the almond in his bowl gets to make a wish and is dubbed the luckiest person at the gathering.
Christmas Day is relatively quiet as the devout attend Christmas church services and families stay at home. On Boxing Day however, everything comes back to life. Get your skis and skates ready to join the fun!
For New Year’s Eve, the Finnish population are geared up for a spectacular fireworks display. You can bet on a lot of parties with generous spreads of traditional food and copious amounts of alcohol! They sure know how to ring in the New Year!
Finland has a unique New Year’s tradition. It’s all about a bit of new year fortune telling. Miniature tin horseshoes are melted in a pan.
The hot liquid is then poured into a bucket of very icy water where it solidifies.
The random shapes that are formed are then subject to interpretation. It’s called uudenvuodentina and the practice has been very limited since banned in 2018.
Some use eco-friendlier alternatives like wax. If you can’t find it, maybe you should just stick to the usual resolutions!
Whether you decide to go big in your New Year’s celebrations or go low-key, always remember – Pidä hauskaa! (Have Fun!)