30 November 2013

Lonely thanksgiving

thanksgiving was hard this year. at least in canada they celebrate the holiday (a month early of course), so if you want the holiday spirit you just have to adjust your calendar, or, dear me, celebrate the wondrous day twice. but here. nothing. its just not as easy to get pumped up.

but we tried. X and i cut and glued and crafted a couple of turkeys to perch on the windowsill by our kitchen table. we even invited our vegetarian finnish/jewish-australian friends to dinner...but their kids got sick the day before. :( so we were alone, in the dark, sharing a meal with only ourselves and not the rest of the surrounding population. it might not seem like that big of a difference, but when the decorations are at the store, the tv commercials are thanksgiving related, the people are all shopping for the same special meal items at the store, it all contributes to the feeling. when that feeling is gone and you arent able to share the traditionally enormous meal with any additional friends or family, its just...a drag. and as ive said before, its my favorite holiday, and each year it seems the blow to my holiday makes me sadder (or perhaps this will be the lowest. heres hoping). but we'll keep trying, its not a terrible consolation to drown my sorrows, and meat, in gravy.

anyway, for our thanksgiving 'feast' we had roasted a chicken, made gravy, stuffing, a sweet potato casserole, and an apple crisp. they were all surprisingly tasty and i even found cranberry jelly at the store (no cranberry chunks in it though, thus dave was not satisfied). we also sipped glögi throughout the day (a finnish spiced juice that is the base for their holiday mulled wine).

our friends actually briefly came over to get some food to take home (we had made so much) and then the three of us had a nice big dinner together of which X ate a lot and we lounged around. thus, pretty average thanksgiving behavior. i also found that the beginning of the (subdued) christmas spirit in the air made things a little brighter.

(X and dave making stuffing. she was actually eating the super stale bread. blah)
(our little craft turkeys and the sparse thanksgiving meal [minus the meat and gravy]; our small and unfancy thanksgiving dinner)

24 November 2013

Kick-off to the christmas season...finland style

well, theres no black friday or un-respected boundary such as thanksgiving to denote the beginning of the holiday season here in finland, so i suppose they just choose to start things off one month before christmas itself, sounds good to me.

i really appreciated the subdued nature of the festivities. there was a gathering of people in senate square, there was choral singing, hot food/drink stands, a free carousel for kids, and the parade began from there. the parade only moves along maybe a dozen city blocks and it is neither loud nor littered with corporate sponsored junk floats. it is short, simple, and filled with enchanting costumes and magic. well done finland.

the funny thing was, we didnt even know it was parade day until we were eating our typical sunday lunch at stockmann. we then decided to mill around the city center and see what we could see: we saw the big public ice skating rink was set-up on the square by the train station, we saw the christmas lights that had been strung on the shopping street of helsinki (from senate square down to stockmann) and we joined in the festivities on senate square before taking a place curbside to wait for the parade (it technically begins when santa arrives on senate square to turn on the streets christmas lights). as luck would have it (for everyone), X caught a quick nap before the first police car of the beautiful little parade passed by. it began with a gorgeous old wooden tram, and then it was sprinkled with snow angels/snow people/fairies/snowmen, 4 separate troops of different dog breeds, and a single horse-drawn carriage driven by some kind of forest witch carried a very authentic and classic looking santa in the back, his caroling elves followed behind, and lastly there was a line of historic firefighting vehicles.

 (senate square fun)
 (snow angels; toy soldiers and dolls)
(fairies; historic fire truck)

and while there was a busy glush of people leaving afterward, we were still able to get right onto a bus and back home to thaw out. it turned out to be a great and unexpected sunday...and the official beginning to the holiday season here.

10 November 2013

Finnish fathers day is in the fall

i quite like having finnish fathers day (isänpäivä) in the fall. since there is no thanksgiving here, its nice to have a holiday where you are thankful for someone.

our fathers day (weekend) festivities...

friday: dave and other fathers were invited to stay for breakfast at daycare. X quite liked it, and it was a nice excuse to do something special at daycare.

saturday: X and i gave dave some time to himself and had lunch and a playdate with some new friends. weve been playing with these guys since late summer. the mom is finnish, the husband is australian-jewish and they have a girl who is one month older than X and a boy who is nearly 2 years old. they are very fun and welcoming and helpful. ive greatly appreciated their company, and feel so lucky to have found them.

sunday: all of us went downtown to the natural history museum. first we had lunch, then we toured the museum (dave had never been), X wasnt as impressed with their bat exhibit as i expected but she made us look at every single one of the bugs in the museums bug collection. she also quite enjoyed the evolution of the universe area (mostly for the dinosaurs). then we had dessert and headed home.

gifts: X had made a craft for dave in daycare, and the two things i ordered arrived late, so...whoops. i got a picture book about rocks for him to share with X and a stick-to-the-window bird feeder with bird seed. once these arrived, they were well received.

02 November 2013

All saints day

all saints day is a peaceful day here in finland, as would be expected i suppose.

we were headed home from the city center today and got off at the bus stop near the cemetery. it was just getting dark which was the best time for a walk there, it made the candles that people were lighting to remember the dead seem all the more beautiful. since we were in the largest cemetery in finland i suppose it shouldnt be a surprise that it was busy, but it seemed strange for a cemetery to be that full of living people.

there was a large central area where candles were lit, perhaps for passed love ones who werent buried in that particular cemetery but were maybe cremated or buried somewhere else, and also many of the graves had fresh pine boughs and heather flowers laid at the foot of the gravestone, and candles of course. it really made for a beautiful walk, plus, X likes to ask us to pronounce the names on the gravestones, so in that way perhaps we did a wee tiny part to remember the dead. i like this holiday, and i think its great to include kids and talk about death and let them feel comfortable with cemeterys and to see that people still think of others even once they are gone.

p.s. small side note: there is no halloween in finland, though it seems to be getting picked up as a private thing that friends will celebrate by having parties, so they can still offer the chance to wear costumes and get a little candy to their kids.