Ask three different travellers about the most compelling reason to embark on a winter journey to Finland, and you’ll probably receive three distinct responses. For some, it’s the unparalleled natural beauty and exclusive Arctic experiences such as the Northern Lights. Others value the remarkable sense of safety the country provides to all visitors, and for yet another group, the allure lies in the sheer joy of snowball fights, encounters with reindeer, and the enchantment of Santa Claus.
Here are eight compelling reasons why you should consider spending a Christmas in Finland.
Finnish Christmas Sauna (Joulusauna)
The Finnish affinity for saunas is well-known, with a staggering 3.3 million saunas in the country. Unsurprisingly, they make time for a steamy sauna session during the Christmas season, known as Joulusauna. It’s an opportunity for relaxation and to ward off the winter chill with an ample supply of Löyly (steam). Creating the right atmosphere in the Joulusauna with candles, lanterns, and oils is paramount. Some adventurous Finns even venture into the freezing December night to dive into a hole cut in a frozen lake or simply experience the snow underfoot after the sauna.
Traditional Finnish Christmas Food and Drink
Finnish Christmas food is very different to that experienced in Britain, Australia or South Africa. With a wide range of special treats made only at this time of year, it will offer your family a totally different culinary experience. Some of the highlights include:
- Kinkku (Baked Ham): Baked slowly to achieve a crunchy, sweet outer crust while keeping the meat inside soft, smoky, and juicy, Kinkku is a central part of the Finnish Christmas dinner.
- Lanttulaatikko (Swede Casserole): Surprisingly sweet, this dish combines mashed swede, cream, bread crumbs, and a touch of nutmeg, making it a perfect choice for a chilly December evening.
- Rosolli (Beetroot Salad): This Christmas staple blends beetroots with hearty root vegetables like potato, carrot, onion, cucumber, and a hint of fruit.
- Joulutorttu (Finnish Christmas Tarts): These pastries feature a festive star-shaped appearance and are filled with prune jam. They are light and offer a delightful sweet and savoury flavour.
While Glögi, or mulled wine, has been enjoyed in the Nordic countries since the 1700s, it only gained prominence in Finnish Christmas celebrations in the 1970s. Alcoholic Glögi, which is a uniquely Scandinavian mulled wine, was banned during the alcohol prohibition era but has made a triumphant return, to the restaurants, and campfires across the country.
The Northern Lights
The gorgeous Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights grace the skies of Finnish Lapland for approximately 200 nights each year from roughly August to April. The further north you go the higher your chances are of spotting this natural wonder. While numerous adventurers opt for Aurora-spotting through activities like snowshoeing, skiing, snowmobiling, or dog sledding, there are also options for witnessing this mesmerising natural display from the warmth and comfort of indoor spaces.
Rovaniemi, nestled in Arctic Finland, is one of the premier locations worldwide for witnessing the mesmerizing Northern Lights. If the skies are clear and conditions are favourable, you can even catch this natural phenomenon from within the city.
Santa Claus’ Village
Folklore places Santa Claus’s original home in the mysterious Korvatunturi in Finland, and the Northern Lapland city of Rovaniemi has embraced the role of Santa’s official hometown. It began when a cabin was erected in 1950 to commemorate a visit by Eleanor Roosevelt and now the city boasts a Santa Claus Village, complete with real Santa the kids can meet. Accessible by local bus or the Santa Express, visitors can expect festive shopping, dining, husky and reindeer sledding, snowmobile rides, and, of course, a personal encounter with Santa himself.
Helsinki Christmas Market
Situated in Senate Square, this is the oldest and most popular Christmas market in the Finnish capital. It’s a picturesque scene with Helsinki Cathedral as a backdrop. On December 13th, the newly crowned St. Lucia descends the cathedral’s stairs, honouring the 4th-century Christian martyr. The market features over a hundred stalls offering beautifully crafted gifts, Christmas ornaments, local produce, and traditional foods. Santa Claus makes daily appearances, and a classic merry-go-round provides free rides for children and a dose of nostalgia for adults.
The Finnish Wilderness
Finnish Lapland is vast, larger than South Korea, Hungary, or Jordan, with the majority of it untouched since the Ice Age. This pristine wilderness offers solitude and serenity amid snow-covered landscapes and frozen forests. Whether hiking through enchanting forests, racing snowmobiles across the tundra, or mushing sled dogs under open wintry skies, you’ll find isolation and natural beauty in abundance.
Lapland is synonymous with snow, covering the region for half the year. The possibilities for snow-related fun and adventure are endless. Lapland is the ultimate destination to experience snow buildings like igloos, ice saunas, snow hotels, and the renowned Lainio SnowVillage. Notably, you can’t discuss snow buildings without mentioning the world’s largest, the Kemi SnowCastle.
Consider these compelling reasons to make Finland your destination for a magical Christmas experience.