1. The opening of Christmas Street
The holiday season is declared officially open in Helsinki on the day Christmas Street “opens” – this year it will be November 19. Santa Claus himself makes an appearance (by the way, he goes through the front door and not through the chimney in Finland). Lights are turned on along Aleksanterinkatu – a custom dating back to 1949 – then a parade takes place through the inner city districts. This is a chance to appreciate how Helsinkians soften the darkness of winter. Stemming from the tradition of candlelight, these days residents spread joy with carefully placed lights, sometimes coordinating designs across entire buildings to spread joy. And don’t miss Stockmann’s, a department store with charming and impressive displays, especially on Aleksanterinkatu and Mikonkatu streets.
The parade ends in Senate Square – where the cathedral rises majestic and white into the sky.
2. Christmas markets
No Christmas trip seems complete without a visit to a Christmas market. In Helsinki, they start in November and continue until Christmas Eve. If anyone knows how to make socks and hats a worthy Christmas present, it’s surely the Finns, kings of textiles. Of course, at every turn there are also design-oriented objects and crafts. Discover seasonal products. And who could resist the handcrafted wooden toys and decorations from Finland? When you need food, the Oldest Market Food Court is the place to go. You can sip mulled wine around the bonfires and admire the old-fashioned carousel.
The Finns don’t need an excuse to hop in a sauna, but just in case, they’ve made sure there’s an age-old sauna ritual before Christmas to soothe you and prepare you for the celebrations. Don’t forget to leave as an offering a bucket of water, a birch switch and some beer for the Christmas elves.
Public saunas can be found throughout the city. Kallio District’s Kotiharju Sauna offers a retro vibe and allows your own snacks. Dive into a hole dug in the ice floe at the Löyly designer sauna, facing the Gulf of Finland. Or if you’re really feeling the Christmas spirit, you might want to try swimming at Yrjönkatu Swimming Hall.
4. independence day
If your trip coincides with Finland’s Independence Day on December 6, you’re in for a treat. Special events and concerts are held throughout the city, including a torchlight parade and the Independence Day Ball broadcast live at the Presidential Palace.
5. Lucia’s Day
At Helsinki Cathedral on December 13, the Lucia Maiden lights up the darkness with her candles. A new Lucia Maiden is crowned there every year on the steps. In her white dress, red belt and crown, she parades through the city, with a train of Christmas elves, horses and vintage cars.
6. Christmas concert
Christmas music is very present in Finland. In fact, churches and concert halls in Helsinki host atmospheric choral and rock events throughout the Christmas season. The most beautiful Christmas carols (Kauneimmat joululaulut) is a series of concerts organized in the churches of the city and the country. About a million Finns join us!
heavy christmas (Raskasta Joulua) is a spectacular touring production with well-known performers. Meanwhile, be on the lookout for Star Singers or “Epiphany Singers” when you’re on the go. These itinerant singing processions of young people wear crowns and carry a star on a stem.
seven. christmas food
The Finnish food scene is exciting. From the approach of autumn until Christmas, restaurants will combine modern Finnish cuisine with seasonal dishes, including cured ham, comforting casseroles and, of course, root vegetable salads of herring and rosolli. To start Christmas morning like a Finn, Christmas porridge is a must. It is a delicious rice pudding made with milk and butter. The Coffee Sisters (Kahvisiskot) tent in Hakaniemi Market serves it all year round.
8. Porridge festivals
You may even be invited to a “porridge party” during the festive months. Building on Finland’s teachers’ craze for Christmas tree parties in the late 1800s, university students began hosting porridge parties – essentially a pre-Christmas get-together (“pikkujoulut” in Finnish, which literally translates to “Little Christmas”). Traditionally, the feasts took place on the eve of the first Sunday of Advent, but today the festive season lasts more than a month!
9. A virtual Narnia
Finland is already 75% forest and now there is even a little more. At Yle Kuusijuhla – a magical advanced reality experience – you can stay warmer than in nature and you can even come face to face with forest creatures in a Christmas wonderland. Taking place at the Tripla Mall, Tapahtuma-aukio Square on December 11 and 12, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free entry.
If you’d rather be in the air, join the Finnish tradition of “Christmas trails” – free events with trails and activities. The Seurasaari Christmas Trail attracts around 15,000 children and adults each year and takes place on the recreational island of Seurasaari. Christmas walks are also organized in Suomenlinna and Vuosaari.
ten. Boxing Day Dances
Most Finns spend Christmas Day peacefully with their families, but on Boxing Day Helsinki comes alive. Restaurants and clubs hold dances, people take sleigh rides and toboggan rides, and the cinema is a popular option for enjoyable entertainment.