Ah… Christmas! It might be hard to believe but just a few years ago I wasn’t really into celebrating Christmas, and catching Christmas spirit at some point was a “mission impossible”. But I guess it grew on me. And now I’m visiting local Christmas market with my husband every year. It became our tradition. Don’t know about you but for me personally X-mas market is like a little miracle. This is the place that makes me smile, it brings me happiness and joy.
Although I must admit it wasn’t always like this. I remember when I’ve visited Helsinki X-mas market for the first time. I think it was ten years ago or so. And that time it was anything but happy and joyful. More than that – it was kind of boring. At least for me it was. Some people may ask why and even say that it’s not true. But since I’ve spent my youth in Latvia and attended X-mas market not only in Riga, but also in Holland, Germany and Luxemburg. So, I have something to compare it to.
Here is the picture from the X-mas market made few years back:
That time it was held in the Esplanadi park.
But it was changing and improving as the years went by. The quantity of shopping stalls started popping up almost as fast as the mushrooms after a rainfall. And now Christmas market is welcoming you in the heart of Helsinki – Senate square (Senaatintori). Helsinki Cathedral – one of the largest churches in Finland is located in this square. It’s hard to miss! The market is open on weekdays from 11AM to 8PM, and on weekends from 10AM to 7PM.
In the center of the market you will see a beautiful old-fashioned merry-go-round that offers free rides to children… and also to those who feel young at heart.
Best update what they made – was when they added a small restaurant-house that offered simple yet delicious Finnish dishes (have you ever tried a reindeer burger?). But most importantly – they started selling BEER! Some of you might wonder what is so exciting about getting a beer in the X-mas market, since you can buy this delightful drink in many other countries. The thing is… it was quite difficult to get a permission to sell alcohol at this event. My first reaction was: “What?! Christmas without alcohol??? What is wrong with you, Finland?!?”. Two years or so ago justice has finally been served. And now you can enjoy a pint of beer or glögi – Finnish version of mulled wine (Glühwein). Usually glögi is an alcohol-free drink and it tastes like a warm spiced berry juice. It’s common to add raisins, raw sliced almonds and vodka in this drink. Or dark rum. Some even add Calvados (apple brandy). I like glögi much more than mulled wine because it’s sweeter and tastier, and it’s so much easier to drink. It’s definitely one of my favorite drinks not only in Christmas time but during whole winter (Finnish winter I might add, which might last up to six months) as well.
Handcrafters from all over the country are coming to this event to present and sell their craftworks: woolen socks, mittens, ponchos and sweaters, gloves and mittens made of sheepskin or elk leather, hand forged items for home, handmade candles, crafts made of glass, wood and clay, Christmas decoration, etc. Over a hundred shopping stalls – cute little wooden huts – offering high-quality goods and beautifully crafted gifts. Everything is made in Finland.
Prices are quite high of course… but it’s understandable. The expression “Finnish quality” is not an empty phrase.
There are also stalls that are selling silver jewelry with spectrolite. Spectrolite is an uncommon variety of labradorite feldspar. It is also known as Finnish labradorite, since this stone is only found in Finland. Spectrolite is without doubts the most beautiful of them all! At first glance – a dark, almost black unremarkable stone. But as soon as the rays of light touch its surface it begins to shimmer with all the colors of the rainbow. A fascinating metamorphosis! Those colors remind me of Northern lights.
As for food… you can try many different snacks: roasted chestnuts, homemade fudge and toffee…
…pastries. Most famous are of course Karelian pies (karjalanpiirakka) with rice or potato. Here you will find almost all common components for traditional Christmas table (produce from primary Finnish producers and farms). Venison, wild boar and elk sausages, cold smoked salmon, honey, jams, cheeses, mustard with various additives, including most delicious one – cognac mustard. We always buy it for Christmas, it goes extremely well with X-mas ham (joulukinkku) – star of the Finnish X-mas table.
Sometimes we also buy joululimppu – spiced Finnish Christmas bread. This one was baked with three gingerbread stars on top of it:
Oh, and did you know that you can also meet Santa Claus here? Not just some random guy dressed up as Santa with fake beard, but an actual Santa. In case you didn’t know or weren’t sure – Santa Claus is real. As real as Finnish snow in winter. Yep, Santa does exist! We call him Joulupukki in Finnish.
Another interesting thing – there are two (!) official Santa’s in Finland. One resides in the north of the country, in Lapland. The office of the other one is located in Helsinki. And duties of “Southern Joulupukki” include the presence at Helsinki events and the attendance of Christmas festivities in Japan and Greece. If I’m not mistaken last year he has visited Georgia (country, not the state) for the first time.
Helsinki Christmas market is a great place to spend time with your family, friends or/and loved ones. X-mas mood is guaranteed!
Hope you enjoyed it!
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas!