It’s Christmas time! This is it, the real test of the Mothering Year. Now we will see who prevails as the perfect mother. The Ultimate Mommy. Who cooks the best feasts (yeah plural because there’s the night before Christmas, and then Christmas day, and then the Boxing Day, which I don’t even understand), who wraps the prettiest presents, who’s children are the most well behaved and most grateful, for they only want mommy to be happy for Christmas, and no present in the world is a match for mommy’s smile. Not mine, that’s for damn sure. Mine are already fighting over who gets to hang more baubles in the tree and it’s just the first days of December.

For school this year the third graders made presentations, depicting the different ways to celebrate Christmas around the world. And these were hung out for show at the Schools Pre-Christmas-party slash Indepence Day party. You know, those things where you have to wake up for school on a Saturday morning and get dressed nicely and go hear the Principal speak and other people’s children sing. And then the adults too because nothing is more fun than a sing-a-long! This year I decided that I will be brave enough to not even pretend to sing.

So the presentations. To be completely honest, I only read the one my kid made. It was about Italian Christmas. And I forgot most of it by now. It’s been two days already! This still sparked an idea in my head (it was bound to happen eventually), why don’t I take the time here and tell you guys all about the Finnish way to spend Christmas. Or maybe not all of it, I mean the kids didn’t cover everything either, just the main points.

First, we celebrate Christmas the same way all good Christian nations: instead of our own old pagan holiday on winter solstice, that just happened to be on the same time as Jesuses birthday. But instead of the 25th, the Christmas Eve is our main event.

At noon of December 24th, it’s time for the declaration of the Christmas Peace. This Christmas Peace is a period of time where everyone must be peaceful, and those who are not, will endure harsher punishments for their crimes than any other times of the year. A tradition for over seven hundred years, even though Finland has only been officially Finland for hundred and one years. The declaration is announced by city officials simultaneously in many cities in Finland, and the main one, because it’s the oldest, from Turku, is televised so everyone can hear it. If you have a TV. Or a radio works too I suppose.

After that we settle down to wait for Santa. Some may go bathe in the traditional Christmas sauna, because it’s good to be clean for Christmas. Some may visit loved ones, the ones still here and the ones that have passed. And at some point there’s the great Christmas dinner. A feast that mostly mommy has prepared for for weeks in advance, and that will be over in ten minutes usually. A lot of other things can be done too, but the kids really don’t care about anything but Santa. “When is Santa coming”, “Is it night already”, “Can Santa come now”.

It would be a lot easier if Santa visited Finns in the middle of the night too, but no, we wan’t proof of the legendary dude. We need to see him with our own eyes. Just believing, like the rest of the world, apparently is not good enough.

Maybe it’s because Santa is from Finland, that he feels the obligation of visiting every Finnish home before bedtime, before he flies out to climb down other peoples chimneys, so we can all be sure to remember that he indeed, does exist. Or maybe it’s because Finns are his favorites. Besties forever.

Since we are already awake when Santa is supposed to visit, there’s no use for him to try and hide, so he comes in from the front door. Like a warm up before the chimneyacrobatics. He knocks and we sing and he comes in and the kids sit on him or go cry behind mommy, since daddy isn’t here when Santa comes. He always just happens to go to the bathroom or the next door or locks himself in the garage at the most inconvenient time, every year, silly daddy. So Santa sits there awkwardly for ten minutes or so, ignoring the pulling of the beard and the crying of the kids and the sweat dripping down his heavily padded back. He hands out a few presents from his blue Ikea bag and then he has to hurry to the next family. It’s a lot of houses to visit!

After Santa leaves we get to open our presents and pretend to be happy for the pair of slippers and toiletry bag we get every single year. Then we eat more (chocolate) and watch the kids enjoy their new best toys for half an hour before they get back on their smartphones to see what their friends got. Then you get to clean it all up. Hurray, where’s that wine that grandma brought.

And then there’s all the Finnish Christmas foods and decorations, there’s traditions in those too. But let’s save that for later, we need a whole month worth of writing here.

— Editors

The writer of this story is a member of the Mom of Finland community.

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