It’s autumn. Or fall as Americans know it better. We in Finland are not yet custom to pumpkin spice, and Halloween is not really big here either, yet. Fall for us means it’s time to bundle up and prepare for six months of darkness.

Finnish people are very straightforward, things are usually black and white, and that might have something to do to the extreme differences in our seasons. The changes in seasons are stark and we Finns are, by laws of nature, required to get used to contrast. Summer is light, with the midnight sun, and the winter is pitch black, with no sun at all. And this naturally affects us as people.

Many view Finns as depressed drunkards. And sometimes that’s really not so far off, and not a surprise either, when we have to live most of the year in the dark. It kinda gets to you. But during summer, we can be fun loving drunkards too. (Disclaimer: not all of us are drunk all the time)

When autumn comes, the nature starts to get ready to surviving the long winter, and so do we. We buy tea lights and lanterns and bake apple pies (or blueberry, it’s a bit more Finnish), we gather our woolen socks and hide under our warm blankets. And when we have to go out, because in Finland, you have to go out with children every damn day, even if it’s pouring rain, or too dark to see anything (flashlights! Hide and seek!). And if you are blessed enough to have your children outgrown that phase when they need you with them to go outside, or don’t have children at all, you still have to go outside to get to work or to the store or to the bar. As an example.

So, when we have to go out, we cover up every inch of us and move from point A to point B as fast as possible, to minimize the time we have to spend in the cold dark outside air. Starting right after midsummer night, all the way to Christmas, the sun is out less and less. Around October to November, if you work from 8 AM to 4 PM, as many Finns do, and don’t work outside, you might not see any daylight at all during your workdays. This kinda darkens the mood, don’t you think?

And of course it only gets worse. During those months you might still see a little daylight during weekends, but then if you happen to be a parent you might just be too damn tired and busy to even notice.

Christmas is so important to us Finns, not maybe as the celebration of Jesus’s birth, but as a celebration of the sun finally starting to come back. We used to celebrate it as Winter Solstice, before Christianity took over, and nowadays it’s a great reason to hang lights everywhere and burn candles to try to alleviate the pain hiding in the darkness. And of course, you get presents and chocolate and wine. So it’s something to look forward to during the season of dying (for nature), and that keeps people from breaking. And usually you get to make the Christmas celebration happen all by yourself, so it doesn’t sometimes feel like a relaxing fun time, but we’ll get to that later on.

Point was, you try spending half of your surrounded by darkness, and try to stay sunny and positive. And that wine helps.

“Did you hear about the man who sat up all night wondering where the sun had gone?
The next morning it dawned on him.”

— Editors

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

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