During the festive season, merchants in the southern Finnish town of Porvoo and many other places across the country set up their stalls of homemade delicacies and traditional handicrafts, bringing the Christmas spirit to locals and visitors alike.
Warm, genuine, enchanting: these are some of the traits that reflect yuletide in Porvoo. A stroll through the old town, its streets hung with Christmas lights, and a visit to one of its markets form the perfect remedy for anyone allergic to commercial Christmas with its inflatable Santas and cheesy songs.
The highlights include a visit to the Old Time Christmas Market at the Volunteer Fire Department headquarters, as well as the traditional Porvoo Christmas Market on Raatihuoneentori (Town Hall Square) – both places attract throngs of visitors every year. The town’s Christmas market tradition stems from its character as a trading centre since medieval times.
The real deal
Porvoo Christmas markets aim to keep things local. “Every item we sell is from the region – home-crafted or organically grown by inhabitants of Porvoo,” says Joachim Silberstein, chairman of the Old Porvoo Residents’ Association, which manages the Old Time Christmas Market, held on December 10 and 11. Dressed in the fashion of bygone times, the vendors sell regional handicrafts and homemade edibles.
Porvoo Christmas Market, on December 10 and 11, offers a similar range of charming local products, with a particular emphasis on traditional Finnish Christmas cuisine.
The Old Station Depot and its café offer a market-style shopping experience throughout the Christmas season. Its 300 square metres contain such an impressive range of weird and wonderful items that it’s easy to believe owner Pertti Haajanen, who claims to have a Christmas present “for anyone who thinks he or she already has everything.”
Those who don’t mind having a little more can choose among everything from vintage Christmas cards and antique porcelain to fresh organic bread and flavoured truffles.
Porvoo has no internationally famous landmarks, but can boast about being a historical small town bustling with life to this very day. Silberstein playfully encourages visitors to have a peek through someone’s seasonally decorated window or stop a local for a quick chat.
“Porvoo’s old town is not a museum,” explains Silberstein. “It’s a community full of life. Its compact size and friendly and approachable people let market-goers get a real insight into people’s lives and traditional Finnish Christmas celebrations.”