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Christmas

Christmas 2017 and 2018

Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Saint Stephen’s Day (the day after Christmas) are all significant days in Finland. Many Finns will take off 24 December through 1 January to spend time with family. In 2017, Christmas Day falls on Monday 25 December.

YearDateDayHoliday
201725 DecMonChristmas Day
26 DecTue2nd Day of Christmas
201825 DecTueChristmas Day
26 DecWed2nd Day of Christmas
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The biggest day of the season in Finland, is not Christmas Day but Christmas Eve. By early afternoon on Christmas Eve, most shops and other businesses will shut down, and public transport will even be hard to find.

Virtually the whole nation will be busily preparing for the evening’s Christmas celebration. They will put up and decorate their Christmas trees, which are never put up early except in department stores and are not normally bought more than a day in advance. Many Fins also attend special church services on Christmas Eve, but once home again, they will be finishing up preparations for the season’s festive meal.

Christmas Eve dinner will be spent with family and normally consist of such dishes as baked ham, rutabaga casserole, beetroot salad, smoked salmon, caviar, herring fish, and liver. The birds will also be given some Christmas food, for Finns often hang heads of wheat, nuts, and other edibles from tree branches this time of year.

Sometime during the evening, the Biblical Christmas Story, from Luke’s Gospel, will likely be read. The youngest child who knows how to read normally is assigned the role. After dinner, “Joulupukki,” the Finnish version of Old Saint Nick, arrives and places presents under the Christmas tree.

The name “Joulupukki” is literally rendered “Christmas Goat.” This is because a goat used to frighten people and demand they hand over their presents in earlier Finnish Christmas tradition, but then Joulupukki had a change of heart and started giving out presents instead. He never lost his original name, however. He does have reindeer, nowadays, like the Santa of other Western lands, and he does bring bags of coal to those deemed “naughty.”

On Christmas Day, most people just relax at home and recover from the previous night’s business. Others, however, get up early, attend Christmas morning church services, and rest at home later. On 26 December, Saint Stephen’s Day, people visit relatives, maybe even some who live far away or whom they have not seen for some time. It is also common to go ice skating or skiing on Saint Stephen’s Day.