All the photos in this post are poor phone quality. Taking pics of peoples private property with a proper camera would have made me feel too much like a stalker. So bear with me.
Anyone who knows me well, knows that Christmas (in Finnish ‘joulu’) is my favorite holiday.
The word joulu originates from the English word ‘Yule’. December in Finnish is ‘joulukuu’. Matthias thought it is really cute that we Finns dedicate the whole month for joulu.
Celebrations for joulu happen during the darkest season, but it is still full of warmth of feeling and light of the candles. It is strongly a family focused festivity. The main day is the Christmas Eve (‘jouluaatto’), when we exchange gifts and have table full of food. The whole Finland shuts down and no other time of the year is as quiet as it is during jouluaatto, the streets being as empty as they can be.
There is a a touch of sentimentality with the Finnish joulu. Our joulu songs are often played in minor key, and tell about sad longing for the Northern joulu time and dead little brothers (I’m serious). Or they tell the stars to shine now, before gravest grief will shadow us all. Or they say “life lasts only a brief moment, and it is short and tedious” (my favorite joulu song when I was in kindergarden).
Also I do not think there are many countries where established rock and heavy singers make popular Christmas albums and tour Finland playing “heavier” Christmas songs. If you do not believe me, here is a music video they made.
If that is not sentimental enough, here is a “fun fact”. Many Finnish family include a visit to the cemetary on jouluaatto to light a candle for the family members who are not with is anymore. So, as weird as it sounded to my Aussie co-workers, to me Christmas and cemetary goes hand-in-hand.
And the truth is that I love that joulu feeling we have. Because in the end even the moody songs come down to appreciating family and friends, and remembering to embrace and enjoy the moment. It is about creating light and warmth to the dark and cold season.
And I missed that feeling here in Australia.
It is a sunny, fun and happy season. To me it felt like lacking some purpose here, but of course I did not grew up here and I am not used to find joulu spirit at the Bondi Beach, like thousands of others did on Christmas Day.
Of course the fact me and Matte did not have a day off together that week had its effect. It is the busiest season at work for both of us, and we have not had too much time to spend with each other. I have been doing 8-12 hour days. Apparently I have been at work too much and right now I am not allowed to do any more hours before Wednesday. So you will get the idea.
But back to sunny and summery Christmas.
There were a lot of decorations and trees all around the city. Funny enough many of them had snow elements. The X-mas lights were multi-colored and glinting. Some cars were decorated with reindeer antlers or candy canes.
People were expecting their day offs and shopping for presents.And even though Finns are heavy drinkers, it felt funny to me listen to people getting ready for the 25th by comparing punch recipes and buying booze with hundreds of dollars.
On Christmas Day the streets were filled with tourists, even though most of the places were closed for the day. But beaches were full and the grills hot with some X-Mas day BBQ food. All around the neighbourhood I heard people having house parties.
It was just not like home. Travelling makes you learn new things about yourself and I learned that joulu has a bigger meaning to me than I knew. Next year I will be home for joulu.