Finnish Easter and the memory of a long-gone winter

Once again, I was deceived by the assumption that if a country is in Europe, its holidays and festivities look more-or-less the same as in Poland. Finland again surprises me, and positively at that! Moreover helps me in understanding, that I should not rest on my laurels, and watch what is happening around me. The more that during Easter in Finland religious and pagan traditions intertwine.

Willow twigs
Willow twigs, which are to ensure the health of every member of the family in the home for the next year (by Jennasiiteri)

Easter celebrations in Finland start on Palm Sunday. Shops are open as on every Sunday, and to the door are knocking… witches! It is a pagan custom that surprised me, because three little witches also knocked on my door. When opened, they began to talk to me in Finnish. I do not have the skills yet to completely understand of what was being said to me in Finnish, so I guessed what might have been said. The only logical association that came to my mind at the sight of costumes and candy bags was: Halloween. Unfortunately, I had no sweets at home, so I had to throw a few oranges into their bags. In return, I received a willow twig.

After returning home, I quickly checked out what actually has happened to me. I have not found information on the Internet about why witches are the focal point of Palm Sunday. Our Finnish friends also did not know the reason. It is worth emphasizing, however, that without reciting a special poem, witches can not be given treats! And the poem goes: “Virvon varvon tuoreeks terveeks tulevaks vuodeks, Vitsa sulle, palkka mullah,” which means in free translation: “I have a willow twig for a year full of health; the twig is yours, and mine: the payment”. So it is a blessing for the home, albeit pagan. I prefer it from the standard “trick or treat” 😉 In addition, if someone is lacking sweets at home, children can be given some small change – that is hy I totally messed up 😉

Easter witches in Finland
Little witches bringing health to homes in exchange for candy 🙂 (by Marjatta)

Palm Sunday begins Hiljainen Viikko, or Silent Week. On Tuesday, Finns go to churches to attend a Mass commemorating the Last Supper. During the week in different churches classical music concerts are organized, and more specifically: Bach’s passions. On Good Friday, which is here a day free from work, in the evening in Helsinki one can experience the Way of the Cross played by actors. Playing the Way of the Cross is a relatively young initiative in comparison with traditional customs of Good Friday. On this day people are fasting, do not visit friends, make a fire in the furnace, or sweep the floor. On Holy Saturday homes can also be visited by a little witch, but it happens most often in the western parts of the country. It is common to go to the Seurasaari island, where a huge bonfire is built up (its function is to ward off evil spirits), and children dress up as witches and trolls.

Easter Sunday and Monday are passing peacefully. Maybe with the exception of Sunday, when many families get up early in the morning to watch the sunrise 😉 Kids eat sweets that they gathered during Palm Sunday and those which they received from their family on Easter Sunday, including their favorite: chocolate Fazer eggs. Although I definitely did not fall head over heels for their taste, it’s worth to buy at least one of them – they are not a typical made of chocolate shell. This is a real hen’s egg shell filled with lots of chocolate! But before Finland had chocolate eggs and bunnies, Finns had a tradition of sowing grass and placing birch twigs in vases to observe how they grow leaves. Finnish Easter traditionally has been more of a welcome of the spring than a religious holiday.

Finnish Easter tastes of mämmi. The image shows mämmi with vanilla ice cream, pancake and jam from cloudberries (by Elina Innanen)

The main course during Finnish Easter is roast lamb. For dessert it is mämmi – a black dessert made from malt and rye, served with cream and sugar. In my opinion, if it has a lot of sugar, it is impossible to eat it. Finns themselves admit, that it gives rise to extreme emotions 😉

And how did my first winter in Finland look like?

Finns themselves admitted, that this year’s winter was unusually warm. In addition, rather without snow. Still, I had a chance to experience amazing things (like walking on the sea surface, frozen, of course), and when I was too cold – I had a good reason to warm myself up in the sauna 🙂

Winter in Finland
The Finnish winter
Frozen, winter sea in Finland
Path on the frozen Baltic Sea’s surface
The winter in Finland
Fishermen can also go fishing in the city center 😉
Throne made of snow
The Frozen Throne
Ice rink in Helsinki
In the city centers ice rinks are being built
Finns feed animals in winter
Finns love animals, so they feed them in the winter – grains and nuts can be boght in almost every store

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