Finnish Christmas Treats
Let’s talk about food, since food is essential and one of the greatest things in this world. Different countries have different traditions when it comes to celebration foods, and Finland is no exception. We also have our special dishes for special holidays, and since it is Christmas very soon (too soon, I’ve done literally nothing Christmassy yet, can someone do something about that?), it’s a perfect time to tell you about them.
Here’s what you will find at almost every Finnish Christmas table:
This is the most important part. It’s not really Christmas unless there’s a big chunk of roasted pigs leg on the dinner table. Finns don’t really do turkey on Christmas. Some do, but most prefer the traditional oven roasted ham, coated with mustard and breadcrumbs, and very heavily overcooked. This is also what you will eat for the rest of the year. Because there’s a lot of it. By New Years eve you’ve made ham and pasta and pizza with ham and other fun ham dishes, and you’ll be ready to not even look at a ham until next Christmas.
The ham is served traditionally with potatoes, boiled, and gravy made out of the melted ham fat. This is usually also the only part of the Christmas dinner any child will even pretend to touch.
We call them boxes. I’ve tried to find another name for them ever since I’ve befriended Americans and served these Finnish delicacies to them, but closest I can think of is a casserole of some kind. A box is a dish, made out of simple ingredients and cooked in the oven. There’s different kinds of boxes, there’s macaroni box, which is an everyday dish. There’s carrot box and rutabaga box, and beetroot box and potato box, and sweet potato box, which are made out of smooshed vegetables and rice or wheat or something, maybe cream, maybe not (I don’t know, I never make these myself, I buy them ready, since it takes too much time and energy). And then there’s liver box, literally made out of liver, and this can be both, a part of your Christmas feast or an everyday box.
Gotta have peas man. Boiled green peas. Other vegetables rarely make it to the seasonal table, at least in their pure and intact form. Maybe it’s for color.
Traditionally, lutefisk. Lutefisk is dried whitefish treated with lye. It’s not just us Finns, the Swedes and Norwegians have this too. Again, a dish that can be preserved for long periods of time, since it’s really hard to find fresh things in the middle of the Arctic winter.
Other fish dishes on a Finnish Christmas dinner include gravlax, which is raw salmon cured in salt, sugar and dill, and pickled herring.
It’s a salad, but not really. It’s a “salad” made from boiled beetroots, carrots, potatoes, apples and pickled cucumber, served with sweetened whipped cream.
Finns like to have milk with their dinner, and Christmas dinner is not an exception. There’s also homemade beer, which usually has little or no alcohol, so the kids can enjoy it too, and mullet wine, called glögi. Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions.
After dinner there will be Santa and gifts and all sorts of merriment, and there will be coffee and gingerbread cookies and Christmas tarts (star shaped plum jam pastries), and a lot of chocolates. Traditionally. Also other sweets can be served, so that we guarantee everyone is all sugared up and hyper when bedtime arrives.
In conclusion, a lot of the seasonal Finnish dishes are things that can be stored for months. Pickled, preserved, frozen, dried. That’s because we only have a few months in the summer when things can be grown and farmed, other times everything dies because it’s cold. So cold.
How does your Christmas Feast look like? Please share in the comments <3
The writer of this story is a member of the Mom of Finland community.
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