Christmas markets are in vogue across Europe, but in Finland they form a long-time tradition. It’s a great time for local artisans to brighten up the early winter with their brilliantly coloured handicrafts. (See our slideshow below.)
A visit to one of Helsinki’s various Christmas markets is one of the traditional preparations for the festive season in the Finnish capital. In late November the crowds gather on Senate Square, where the city has put up a massive Christmas tree, to watch the lights go on as the Christmas season is officially opened. A couple weeks later, food and crafts stalls open on the square itself for Saint Thomas’s Market .
At the other end of Alexander Street, the stalls by the Three Smiths statue offer a daily fare of hand-knitted socks, felt slippers, hats and home-made conserves. The Women’s Christmas Fair at Wanha Satama Trade Fair Centre dates back a century to a time when women took what was a rare opportunity to make money for themselves.
Christmas fairs and markets thrive in Finland’s other towns and cities, not only the capital. The aroma of glögi (Glühwein or mulled wine) fills the chilly air, brass bands play favourite carols and the flames of outdoor candles fill the town squares with the illusion of warmth. In these moments it’s easy to believe that Christmas was made especially for Finland.
Brilliant Christmas colours
Text and photos by Tim Bird