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Christmas tree

Christmas tree Decorated Christmas trees became popular in Finland towards the end of the 19th century, although the habit of erecting festive trees is known to have been common already long before this in the Nordic countries.

Christmas trees are spruces, usually decorated with (nowadays electric) candles or lights, silver or golden ribbons, coloured glass balls  —  and a multitude of other kinds of ornaments.

Typically, a silver or golden star is placed at the top of the tree.

Picture on right: Finnish Christmas tree from 21st century.

19th century style Christmas tree Traditionally, the tree is brought in and decorated on Christmas Eve morning. However, nowadays many people like to buy and decorate their tree as early as about a week before Christmas.

Plastic trees have become more popular in recent times, but many think that authentic Christmas atmosphere is created only with the scent of a living tree.

Picture on right: Finnish Christmas tree decorated in mid-19th century style (Helsinki City Museum - Burgher's House).

Outdoor Christmas tree with lights The fresh tree is placed in a stand with a water container. To keep the tree from drying out and dropping needles, it is watered regularly.

The Christmas presents for kids and grownups which joulupukki  —  the Finnish Santa Claus  —  has brought on Christmas Eve are placed under the Christmas tree to wait until the opening time later in the evening.

Bigger or smaller, well-proportioned spruces growing in private or public gardens, parks, etc, are often decorated with Christmas lights, as well.

Christmas presents from the 19th century

Picture above: a small spruce decorated with Christmas lights in a snowy garden.

Picture on left: Finnish Christmas presents wrapped in mid-19th century style (Helsinki City Museum - Burgher's House).


Christmas ornaments

Finnish homes are decorated with different kinds of Christmassy ornaments: decorated wreaths on doors and lit paper stars or Christmas lights of various designs and shapes hung in windows.

Lit paper starChristmas lightball

Billy-goat The fashion for lit paper stars was adopted from Sweden in the 1940s, and for door wreaths from the United States in the 1950s.

Among the decorations, there may be the traditional Nordic billy-goat made of straw, coming in various sizes, or small statuettes representing Christmas gnomes, angels, reindeer, snowmen, etc, the quality of the paraphernalia ranging from cheap, tacky kitsch to tasteful, meticulously crafted artifacts.

Picture on left: traditional straw billy-goat.

Festive tablecloths and decorative textiles are laid out or hung on walls. The colours most often associated with Finnish Christmas are warm red, warm green or pure white, perhaps enriched with a tinge of gold, silver, copper, etc. Also tartan fabrics with Christmassy colours are popular, for example in the form of ribbons and bows decorating the Christmas presents.

Tealights And since it is the darkest season of the year, candles and tealights are burnt to bring light and warmth in the middle of winter. Many types of lanterns and outdoor candles may be seen lit in gardens, yards and balconies and also trees or bushes in gardens and parks may be decorated with tiny Christmas lights.

Poinsettias Branches of spruces or other evergreen trees are used to decorate gardens and balconies, and also the grave sites of deceased relatives may be decorated with them, together with grave lights that will be lit on Christmas Eve.

Picture on left: Christmas flower arrangement with poinsettias.

Hyacinths Flower arrangements with poinsettias, amaryllis, scented hyacinths or miniature junipers are very popular in Christmas time. They are often presented to friends and relatives when visiting them before Christmas.

Picture on right: potted Christmas hyacinths.

Himmeli, a traditional, old Finnish Christmas ornament, may be hung from the ceiling in some homes. It is made of short strips of rye straw tied together with strings to form a complex three-dimensional structure.

Himmeli Picture on right: traditional Finnish himmeli.

In the old days, himmeli was hung above the dinner table to ensure that the coming rye crop would be plentiful. There are many different shapes and sizes of himmeli: the bigger the size, the larger the rye crop would be.

In spite of the ever-growing quantity of Christmas-kitsch, one could say that the Finnish people in general prefer tasteful decorations.

Nordic Christmas kitsch Picture on right: a souvenir shop in Helsinki offering Finnish Christmas kitsch for tourists.

Like in the most of continental Europe, the horrid spectacles of Anglo-American Christmas extravaganza  —  the type of "who can produce the tackiest and ugliest Christmas ornament and light display"  —  are not very popular here, fortunately.

Tree-bark angel The Finns preferably avoid very bright, "unnatural" colours, twinkling, multicoloured lights and the use of plastic in Christmas decorations and crafts. Instead they often use natural ingredients like wood, straw, bark, moss, lichen, cones, spruce and pine branches, dried lingonberry sprigs, clay, wool, linen, cotton etc.

Picture on right: a rustic angel figure made of tree bark and lichen.

Picture below: bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) is a popular decorative motif portrayed in the Nordic Christmas tradition.


Read more about traditional Finnish Christmas dinner here.

You will find traditional Finnish Christmas recipes here.


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