Father Christmas and gnomes
The Finns are very keen in persuading the whole world to think that the true origin and home of Father Christmas actually lies in Lapland, the northern part of Finland.
Picture on right:
Helsinki, capital of Finland
The Finnish children believe joulupukki is living there together with Mother Christmas and their little helpers, the elves or gnomes, as they are more properly called. Their home is in a fell called Korvatunturi, literally translated as Ear Fell (see the map above).
It is there where joulupukki has his workshop where toys and other Christmas presents are crafted by the gnomes.
Another task of theirs is to keep an eye on children, in order to see whether they have been behaving well and deserve any presents on Christmas...
In the Nordic mythology, especially in Finland and Sweden, the gnomes were originally guardians and good spirits of the house, believed to inhabit saunas, barns, byres, stalls etc.
Picture on right: Scandinavian gnome.
Porridge and food was taken out to them in order to keep them in good humour, thus confirming good fortune and prosperous future for the household.
If the gnomes were ignored, they might avenge by causing all sorts of mischief and trouble or even abandon the house altogether, leaving it unprotected.
Picture on left: Scandinavian gnomes cooking Christmas porridge.
While Mother Christmas rarely makes an appearance, a couple of little gnomes, on the other hand, may accompany joulupukki on his visits to Finnish families on Christmas Eve.
In addition to taking care of gnomes, the domestic animals were also pampered by giving them extra feed at Christmas.
Picture on right: a sheaf of oats for birds.
Also wild animals were remembered. Sheaves of oats were placed outside on yards to feed little birds through the coldest winter season.
This custom is still commonly practised in the Nordic countries.