My Childhood Memories of Christmas

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   It’s hard to believe there is only three more sleeps to Christmas Eve! Christmas for me evokes memories of snow,  of dark, cold, wintery nights. Daylight only lasts for four hours. The ground is blanketed in a thick covering of snow. How I miss it this time of the year! Just one day of snow – preferably Christmas Eve – would be awesome. This year we are in for a roasting 39C.  Somehow it’s not quite the same.

 I remember one year my family built me a real igloo for a playhouse right in our front yard. It was awesome! There was a kitchen, a dining area and a bedroom. All the furniture and everything inside was made of compacted snow hardened with water to turn it into ice. All winter I had the pleasure of playing in it and inviting family and friends to visit. Lying in the powdery snow making snow angels was fun too. Testing to see if your tongue really sticks to the metal on the gate was not. It did. There was blood. And Mum had to bring out the warm water so it could be eased off without losing all the skin! I only did it once. If I remember right  it was my brother who told me it wouldn’t stick and I should test it out for myself.

A Christmas Eve tradition in Finland is for families to visit the cemetery. Hundreds of softly glowing candles adorn each grave. If any were left without, someone would also make sure they too  had  candles. Sparkling in the white of the snow blanketing the landscape, it looks beautiful, serene.  It is a remembrance and a tribute to those who are no longer with us.

Back at home scrumptious smells filled the house as Mum busied herself baking traditional biscuits, breads and other goodies. Christmas Eve was filled with an unbearable excitement. It was finally here! The day we had been looking forward to all year.  A year that as a child seemed to drag on forever. The last window in the Advent calendar had been opened.  It was a picture of the Baby Jesus in a manger. It was His birthday after all. Back then advent calendars did not contain chocolates. Instead each window revealed a Christmas related picture.

Early  Christmas Eve we went out with Dad to get the Christmas fir tree. Yet another tradition that served to underline that it really was Christmas now. Once safely stowed in its base,  we helped decorate it with gingerbread cookies, sweets and real candles.  A Christmas sauna made sure everyone was squeaky clean.

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Celebrations always began with the family attending a Christmas Eve church service. It was so hard to sit still. Finally it was time to go home. The house was warm, filled with the aromas of Christmas. Tablecloths, decorations and candles gave a magical festive touch. The table had been set with the best crockery.

Everything was in readiness. Quietly we sat at table while Dad read the Christmas story from the New Testament and prayers were said. Everyone joined in saying grace. In our family grace was said before  every meal, not just at Christmas. Then it was time to eat. Hungry stomachs were soon filled with all manner of delicious food. There was baked ham and homemade mustard. Cranberry sauce and gravy with the Christmas casseroles –  sweetened mash potato, rice and carrot, liver and rice, turnips. Rosolli too. A salad treat of boiled beetroot, carrot and potato with apple, onion and herring were all chopped up into bite size pieces.  I wasn’t too keen on the herring back then. I love it now. Desert of creamed rice containing one blanched almond for a year of good luck to whoever was lucky enough to get it finished the meal.  Smothered in hot fruit soup made of prunes, sultanas and dried apples, it was delicious. The coffee table too was laden with home-made biscuits, cakes, sweet yeast buns. Christmas Star biscuits were a special treat made from puff pastry and filled with a puree of prunes. Warmed and dusted with icing sugar they too were delicious. They were all for later. Usually the day after for us kids. Once bellies were filled, the table was cleared. And excitement mounted to feverpitch. Joulupukki would be arriving soon!

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The highlight of the day always of course was when Joulupukki (Santa Claus) arrived bearing his sack of gifts. It  was always one of the neighbours dressed up. I spotted him one year as I peeked over the fence. I knew who it was. Not that I cared. I was far too excited and wanted to show off my brand new patent leather shoes. They were my special party shoes and I was so proud of them. It was the first time I had been allowed to wear them. Knowing who Joulupukki was paled into insignificance in comparison.

Joulupukki was welcomed with Christmas carols about Santa and his elves. Mum had a beautiful singing voice. She led the family chorus as Joulupukki came and again as he left. We tagged along as best we could. Gifts were exchanged. Money was tight. Dad, as a carpenter, was often without work in winter. One each, the gifts were modest and thoughtful. I was too little to have any pocket money to spend. I used to wrap up exciting things like old socks and underpants as my gifts to the family. It laid a wonderful foundation of tradition and a deep sense of the true meaning of Christmas. No extravagance. No commercial hype. Family togetherness and Love.

If Christmas is a time of celebration for you, may you too experience what it is really about – Gifting from the Heart without the hype.

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©  Raili Tanska

Images Pixabay and personal album
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28 thoughts on “My Childhood Memories of Christmas

  1. That tongue test was perhaps not such a good idea. I hope you were okay in the end. I would have loved to try that igloo when I was a child, though. By the way, I’m glad that finding out the identity of Santa Claus didn’t spoil your Christmas. Anyway, he might still have been the real Santa Claus. After all, Santa has to be somebody’s neighbor, right?

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    1. I think every kid in Finland does the tongue thing at some stage! It’s never a good idea. I do remember bleeding a lot. And getting very angry with my brother for lying to me! You’re right about Santa of course. As you know, he lives right at the top of Finland so he would have just nipped in to us on his way to other places, as he does. He never uses the chimney in Finland though.

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      1. Even though I know it’s a dangerous thing to do, I can’t help smiling at the idea of you trying it. I’m glad there was no lasting damage, though.

        Incidentally, how does Santa get into houses in Finland if he doesn’t use the chimney?

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      2. Lol! I did try to pull my tongue off (lips got stuck too)! It hurt. A lot.
        Santa comes in through the door just like everyone else 🙂 He’s an expected guest He personally gives each person their gift/s and kids get to sit on his knee in their own home. Sometimes the children in the family are his little elf helpers with the gifts. At least that’s what happened in our house. The ‘kids’ in our family still take on the elf role and wear Santa hats 🙂 We just don’t organise for anyone to dress up as Santa anymore. The suit got worn out, lol!

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      3. It settles any problems there may be with a growing waistline due indulgence – you know, all the milk and cookies that he just has to eat! I’m sure Santa would love to have you as a elf helper even now. Grown ups are allowed to revert to childhood at Christmas 🙂 I think it should be compulsory.

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      4. Your choice 😉 Personally I think they are a good fashion statement. A precedent has been set though. One year we had a shoeless Santa. That’s the first thing my son spotted, and wanted to know why he had no boots!

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  2. Your story brings back memories of snow and ice and family togetherness. Not so commercialised as it has been made now. The presents were given only to the children never to the adults, and what fun it was. Presents were never given on Christmas Day either as it was deemed not appropriate. Wishing you a lovely Christmas despite the anticipated heat.

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    1. Thank you Janet. I do remember you telling me about the dutch tradition with gifts. It’s so interesting hearing how all the different places celebrate the same thing! You keep cool too and have a wonderful day with your family 🙂

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  3. Wow. Great post. As a Finn living in Finland, that all You told here was true as I remember my childhood’s Christmas. We had Himmeli also inside our home. Do You remember or know Himmeli? If, I have a post in which my wife shows how to make it.

    Visiting Cemeteries and churches are yet today our habits. My mother was popular Santa in our small village.

    Merry Christmas.

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    1. Thank you Matti from Finland! I do remember himmeli’s. They are very fragile. I can remember trying to make one and the straws kept breaking! I grew up in Jyväskylä. My husband is from Himanka. Which small village are you from?
      Merry Christmas to you and yours too 🙂

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      1. Thank You. I spent my younghood nearby the town called Varkaus. I know Jyväskylä very well and one summer we made a lake Cruise at mid-summer there. I nearly know Himanka, because we have driven thru the road nearby it and I have photos from the Poor-man statue of Himanka. Here is:

        Himmeli how to make it.

        Matti.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Today, I went to the beach front with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is totally off topic but I had to tell someone!

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    1. Love the story, thanks for sharing 🙂 Around the same age we took our son to the beach. It was low tide. There were lots of little holes in the sand. He wanted to know what they were. When we told him they were made by crabs that lived under the sand, he refused to walk one more step! We had to carry him 🙂 He now walks barefoot on the sand – only took 24 years, so there is hope for your daughter yet, lol!

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  5. Wow that was strange. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyhow, just wanted to say excellent blog!

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