Until the reindeer pees…

A friend at work has lent me a book that compares English and Finnish proverbs. While the meanings are similar I love the way the Finnish versions all have a local twist, usually associated with the seasons, the earth or Finnish wildlife.

For example, where I’d say: ‘straight from the frying pan and into the fire’, a Finn might say ‘Kun menee sutta pakoon, tulee karhu vastaan’ ( When you flee from a wolf, you run into a bear).

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Similarly, the months of the year in Finnish are also tied to life.

Here are the 12 months of the year in Finnish and their meanings as far as I can tell. When forming the name of the month, you add kuu (moon), for example tammikuu is January.

1. Tammi – oak, or heart in some dialects. Sometimes attributed as being named for the ‘heart of winter’

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2. Helmi – pearl. Possibly named for the sun shining on droplets of ice, giving a pearl like effect.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

3. Maalis – maa means earth or ground. Some theories say this is the month when the earth is again visible as the snow melts away.

4. Huhti – a time when trees were cut and burnt so as to add nutrition to the soil (in English this is called ‘swidden’, something I’d never heard of before)

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5. Touko – crop, a time to plant crops for the next harvest

6. Kesä – kesä means summer and June is considered the first month of summer in Finland

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7. Heinä – hay, make it while the sun shines!

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8. Elo – elo means life and elonkorjuu is the Finnish word for harvest

9. Syys – autumn is syksy in Finnish and September is considered the beginning of autumn in Finland

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10.Loka – dirt or mud, probably due to the slush on the ground as the first snow falls

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11. Marras – death, a time when the plants and trees begin to die as the days get increasingly shorter.IMG_5273

12. Joulu – an old festival gradually replaced by Christmas and now associated with the Christian festival. Joulupukki (now meaning Santa Claus) actually means ‘yule goat’ and comes from the story in Norse mythology of Wōden and Thor embarking on their Wild Hunt on a flying wagon pulled by goats.

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We learnt another Finnish saying recently. As reindeer cannot pee and run at the same time, one way to measure distance was the length a reindeer could travel before having to stop to relieve itself (max distance estimated to be 7.5km). Known as poronkusema I’m not sure we have an English equivalent, but you never known when it may come in handy.

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Drink dispenser at a recent Christmas party

Hyvää Joulua! Merry Christmas! x

 

 

Helsinki Christmas Markets

I’ve lost track of time. When I went to buy our Christmas tree yesterday I couldn’t figure out why it was on sale. And then I realised – there’s only one week till Christmas! A common complaint in NZ and Australia is that Christmas merchandise starts appearing in stores around October but I haven’t noticed that so much here, with things really kicking off just this month.

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Helsinki Christmas Markets run from 8-21 December and over 100 colourful cabins have been set up in Senate Square. Nerea and I went down on a cool and crisp day to check them out.

IMG_4356One of the hardest things about the Baltic wind right now is having cold ears! The markets have piles of warm woollen mittens, hats and ear warmers to choose from.

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You can see this mannequin is also sporting a knitted neck warmer. Plainer versions are really popular for children to stop cold air slipping down their jackets and are easily removed so they are not too hot once indoors.

IMG_4351There’s a range of food on offer – including the ubiquitous smoked salmon, pickled vegetables, pickled herring, berry jams and sauces.

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You can also find reindeer pelts and sheepskins to warm up your home – or why not go the whole fox if that’s your thing?

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Finnish baking is on offer, such as traditional ginger biscuits (piparkakut) as is glögi, Finnish mulled wine popular at Christmas.

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There are also warm Kareljan piiraka and lihakeitto (meat soup) as well as pulled pork rolls and vegan burgers to be found.

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If you are in Helsinki I recommend stopping by before the markets close in five days time!

And for anyone feeling even slightly grinchy I have included below what may just be the cheesiest photo I have ever taken.

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