Sweetness and Light

November in Finland brings the darkness of the season, and fields and trees that lack growth and life. The word November in Finnish is marraskuu and literally means the death month. I will not be here for the days when the sun does not rise, but I am noticing a touch of the darkness lately. Finland combats this dark and drear time by drinking tea (and coffee), spending time in homes and anticipating the Christmas time.

This dark season brings two interesting products to the town shops. The first product is Joulutorttu, which means Christmas tart. I made this lovely treat, Joulutorttu, with my Finnish äiti meaning “mom” so I could be a part of the Finnish Christmas time before I leave Finland.

First we made crisscross cuts in the dough with a pastry cutter.

Next we folded the corners of the pastry to make a pinwheel, or poinsettia shape.

Midway through preparation.

Third we placed a portion of plum jam called “luumumarmeladi” on top before baking.

Baked with Christmas cheer.

The second important product I have noticed filling the Finnish village stores are candles. Candles are an important symbol of life, respect and light. They give a welcoming atmosphere to this dark season. An important candle tradition in Finland is called “Hallowmas” meaning All Saint’s Day and is held either the first Saturday of November or the last Saturday of October.

The Illmajoki graveyard.

All Saint’s Day is generally a silent and solemn day spent in a home, with family and by bringing flowers or candles to the graves of lost family and friends. The American halloween tradition is making its way to the family parties, clubs and schools in Finland. I do think it is important however, to preserve these old traditions as the influence of other countries melds across the world, and respect the interpretations of different cultures during this time. One of my fellow exchange students, Chase Horton, spent All Saint’s Day with out International Exchange Coordinator’s family in Seinäjoki. At the larger event that Chase attended those with past family members and close friends brought candles to individual graves. People like Chase, who didn’t have anyone in particular in Finland to set a candle out for recognized the spirit of the event and season by placing a candle in a circular sort of monument in the graveyard.

I hope we can all take a moment to learn from this Finnish tradition. Please remember those we have lost and remember the sweetness and light that shines through, even the darkest times. There is always something to look forward to.

All Saint’s Day candles placed in loving memory at the Seinäjoki graveyard. (Photo by Chase Horton)

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One thought on “Sweetness and Light

  1. Joulutorttu are the best! Much easier to prepare than they first look…

    All Saints Day and also Christmas Day (actually Christmas Eve here) are both days to visit departed loved ones. I’m glad it’s a tradition that continues, despite Halloween encroaching.

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