Language Insight is heading to Finland for Christmas in this blog, where many believe Santa Claus lives when he’s not delivering presents to all the world’s children.

The Build-Up

The lead-up to Christmas in Finland is likely to be an incredibly busy time for the country’s postal service. Finnish children believe that Father Christmas lives on the fell of Korvatunturi in Lapland – and many millions more kids all over the world think this too. As a result, millions of letters are sent there every year in the hope of reaching Santa Claus before he sets out delivering presents.

As well as sending letters, many people from across the globe travel to Finland at this time of year to visit the home of Father Christmas. While there, they can have adventures like going on a husky safari or riding in a sleigh pulled by reindeer – perhaps even one of Santa’s own!

Meanwhile, Finnish people are busy cleaning their homes in preparation for the three days of Christmas. The tree is not put up until Christmas Eve, while nuts and seeds are put outside for the hungry birds who may have trouble finding any food under the deep blanket of snow. There is a belief in Finland that animals should also receive treats during the holiday.

A particularly exciting pre-Christmas Day custom in Finland is to visit one of the country’s steam baths. A true test of nerve is to sit in the sauna until the heat gets too much, and then run outside and roll in the snow. So integral is the use of saunas to the Finish way of life that there is one in almost every home and women even used to give birth in them.

Who is the Finnish Santa Claus?

Finland has the same Father Christmas as the UK and US, although because he lives so close by he usually delivers the presents in person accompanied by his elves, rather than coming down the chimney.

As well as Santa Claus, the Finnish also historically expected a visit from the Yule Goat. This was once an ugly figure who turned up during the festive period demanding gifts, but in the 19th century he seemingly had a change of heart and started to give presents away instead.

Today, Father Christmas is a more popular character than the human-sized goat and has largely taken over the animal’s duties. However, it is still customary to hang a model goat made from straw on the tree. Another tradition is that of hiding a miniature yule goat in your neighbour’s home as a prank. Should they spot it, they have to attempt to smuggle it back into your house and hide it.

The Feast

Like with many of the countries in Europe, Christmas Dinner is often consumed on Christmas Eve in Finland. When the first star is spotted in the sky, it is taken as a sign to serve out. Due to the custom of not eating meat before Christmas Day, boiled cod is usually the main dish and is accompanied by potatoes and vegetables, although roast ham is also sometimes served.

Alternatively, a huge feast is prepared on either December 24th or 25th. Known as joulupöytä, this spread is similar to a smörgåsbord and consists of numerous different meals.

At the centre of the spread sits a huge Christmas ham seasoned with mustard, and diners can also dig into an assortment of vegetables and casseroles. A selection of the additional dishes include cured salmon with onions and sour cream, Karelian meat stew, pickled herring, liver, carrot, potato or turnip casserole.

This is followed by sweet treats including jam pastries, fruit soup, rice pudding and gingerbread. After dessert, the children go to bed, but the adults stay up late into the night drinking Schnapps and sharing stories.

If you’re spending the festive season in Finland, why not share some of your own Christmas customs below?

You can find out about Christmas in other countries in the links below…

Christmas in Brazil –

Christmas in Norway –