In most of the Christian countries Christmas celebration is highlighted on the Christmas Day. However, in Finland the Christmas Eve itself that’s celebrated on December 24th, is the most important day.
In the old town of Finland’s former capital called Turku, a special ceremony is held to declare the beginning of the “Christmas peace”. This period starts on Christmas Eve at noon 12 o’clock and it lasts for twenty days. Breaking the peace is very serious and nothing good will come out of it. The tradition of declaring Christmas peace is known to date all the way back to the 13th century.
In Finland, Santa is called by the name of Joulupukki! The name can actually be translated into a ‘Christmas Goat’ which used to be a traditional creature in Finland. The Yule Goat was a scary goat who asked people for presents – and certainly didn’t give any out! Over time the goat finally became the gift giver until Santa took over these duties. Nevertheless, the name of the Christmas Goat was still retained in Finland! Joulupukki rides with reindeer and leaves gifts under the Christmas tree. However, if you have been naughty, you could end up with a bag of dry twigs!
After the meal, Joulupukki might visit the house! When he comes in, he will ask if any children are living there. They reply very loudly! Next off he asks if they have been good all through the year. If the children have been good, he will pass over the presents. Then the whole family will gather together and watch the fun of opening. After opening some presents, it’s time to go to bed.
On Christmas Eve, or the day before, Christmas trees are bought from the local market or square. The seller expects you to bargain with them on the price.
Finns have a tradition to relax by going in the sauna and bathing before attending the celebrations of the evening. Sauna was regarded as a holy place where many important acts of life were carried out — from giving birth to dying and treating as well as healing the sick. Today the sauna also represents a symbol of purity in Finland.
Church and cemeteries
Some people attend the Christmas Eve church services and many visit the cemeteries to light candles on the graves of their deceased relatives and loved ones. When the evening gets darker, the cemeteries glow like a sea of twinkling lights.