Here at AAVALABS we love Christmas!
First of all, our company was started in Finland, which is officially the home of Santa Claus (yes, there's even an official address online!).
The other thing we love about the holiday season is the fact that we get to spend time with our loved ones.
It's the time of the year where we all take a small breather from the hectic day-to-day hustle and gather our energies for the new year. And of course it's also a great time to enjoy some very unique Christmas foods that are only eaten during the festive season.
In this blog post we want to introduce you to some Finnish Christmas traditions and also share some experiences from our international team that operates all over the world.
The preparation for the Christmas holiday usually starts well ahead of time by cleaning and decorating the home. Many families spend the weeks prior to Christmas baking and preparing sweets and other delicacies for the upcoming holidays.
Some of the most popular bakery items include “piparkakut”, which is the Finnish version of gingerbread cookies.
Some families also have a tradition of baking their own “karjalanpiirakat” (Karelian pies/pasties), crispy pies made from a rye dough and stuffed with rice porridge. Another popular pastry is “joulutorttu”, a star-shaped pasty made from Soft and flaky puff pastry (usually ready-made) filled with prune jam.
In Finland, Christmas Eve is the main event of the holidays, and the night Santa comes with his presents. Many Finns have a tradition of Christmas sauna (well, sauna is part of pretty much every major life anyway…) and then attending a Christmas Mass in the evening.
Houses and gardens are decorated with candles and lights. If the temperature is below zero degrees many people also like to make lanterns out of ice (they are easy to make and look really beautiful!)
Typical Finnish Christmas foods include a big Christmas Ham served with mashed potato and casseroles containing rutabaga, carrot and potato. Other popular items on the menu include cured salmon, and a vegetable salad called “rosolli”.
For dessert Finns like to eat rice pudding/porridge with spiced plum jam. One almond is hidden in the pudding, and whoever finds it on his plate will have "good fortune"
Christmas traditions may vary from family to family, but generally it is a traditional family celebration that includes eating, spending time together, playing games and possibly a Christmas walk in the snow.
Many families also follow a tradition of visiting the graves of relatives and lighting candles on Christmas Eve.
As the AAVALABS team is spread across several continents and countries, the way each one celebrates Christmas is determined largely by their culture. We asked some of our team members to share about their Christmas traditions.
Typical Christmas foods in Poland include beetroot soup with mushroom tortellini (barszcz z uszkami), dumplings with different filling (pierogi), fish and other non-meat dishes. Desserts vary regionally, but a lot of them are made of poppy seeds or dried fruits.
We celebrate on 24th, so it's technically still lent, hence traditionally there's no meat. We're supposed to have 12 different dishes, hay under the table cloth and a spare set of tableware for an unexpected guest.
We always gather all the family, cousins, uncles, grandparents, friends of parents, we usually meet at 8pm and then we hang together and we always have fireworks. At 12 midnight exact, we have this firework that makes the loudest noise and we spark it at that time and we start to hug each other as a sort of way like saying "Merry Christmas" then there's the toast in which the host of the party say a few words, reminiscing all the moments of this past year (we also do it on New Years), then we eat usually pork.
And at around 2 am my brothers and I go to this party in a hotel to hang out with our friends. The party usually lasts until 8-10am and we always have the best time there. And then the next day we wake up quite late, we gather again in family, we eat leftovers of the day before and we open the presents
Usually we celebrate with my whole family. Dishes are always different, however each year there are lots of tangerines!
As for activities - we play different table games on Christmas evening. And during the whole holiday period I like spending some time playing computer games with my friends, because that period is associated with holidays in school.
In my family Spanish, German and Italian cultures are mixed, so we don't do the typical Spanish Christmas. We focus on family activities, like cooking (from baking cookies, to home-made pasta), hiking tours, playing table games, doing handicraft, painting, etc.
Riisipuuro (rice pudding) with manteli (almond) hidden is the only lunch option on the day of Christmas eve. Then on dinner the first course -table is full of different fish (herring, baltic herring, fish eggs, cured fish, salmon, etc. The main course includes all the typical casseroles and ham.
As my mom is Finnish we usually have a Christmas with Finnish influences. It has become a tradition that there is always “riisipuuro” (Finnish rice pudding) with cinnamon and of course a hidden almond (though my mom usually adds 2-3 almonds so chances to find one are higher!)
We love drinking the Finnish version of mulled wine and combining it with German sweets, especially marzipan. Interestingly, marzipan is one thing Germans love and Finns hate!
At AAVALABS we work pretty much around the year, and there's always someone online due to the different time zones.
However, Christmas is one of the few holidays where we take a couple of days off to be with our families and loved ones and let Santa do the delivery job.
This small creative break is much needed after an eventful year. But don't worry, we'll be back soon with new exciting products and stories soon!
Happy holidays from us to you!
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The highlight of spring is Vappu, celebrating the beginning of spring.
Vappu is celebrated in both Finland and Sweden. However, the two countries celebrate it with different traditions and on different days. Typically, Swedes celebrate their Walpurgis Night on April 30, while Finns celebrate it on the 1st of May.
We'll tell you more about what exactly Vappu is, where it originally comes from and how Finns traditionally celebrate it.