Do you ever dream about celebrating Christmas in the country side? In a place where you would spend the holidays in a red cottage with white trimmings, a cottage surrounded by birch trees, firs and aspens? Do you ever dream of a white Christmas? Cold days? Starry skies at night? Can you see yourself looking out of one of the cottages windows at dusk, around two o’clock in the afternoon when the white, deep snow turns blue?
If you are answering “yes” to above questions you are like me; I have celebrated those Christmases! Yes, maybe 5-6 times in my life.
Where do you find a place like this? You may ask…Well, let me tell you; a place like this exists in Närpes, Finland in the village of Norrnäs on the little farm of Stenö! It is there you are sure to celebrate the ultimate Christmas.
My Grandma’s house makes the perfect setting for a Christmas-card-Christmas. It is there we have celebrated those lovely Christmases. Now the house stands empty and quiet come Christmas. My dear Grandma is now in living in a comfortable apartment in Näsby instead, a place where she does not have to carry in fire-wood every day, or be afraid of her water pipes bursting in the bitter cold.
But I miss the most wonderful Christmases at Stenö!
We usually got there maybe 3-4 days before Christmas Eve. We would then decorate the house together. My Dad or my Grandpa (when he was well and alive) would fetch the Christmas tree from the forest on the 22 of December. We would then trim it with old decorations from the 30’s and 40’s, and probably something newer as well. I miss my grandma’s Christmas ornaments. I do remember the big yellow star my grandpa had made! He put the star up on top of the flag pole, and he had put a lamp inside it, at night it was shining all over Stenö! SO beautiful, and all of the people that lived on Skräddarback up in the Norrnäs village would see the star as well.
Usually I, my siblings and my dad slept in “framstugan” the more formal living room in the house. My mom and grandma slept in my grandma’s bedroom (when my grandpa was alive we all, my family, slept in “Framstugan”). We usually decked out “framstugan” as well. We brought in a tiny little tree that we decorated, we put up plenty of little Santa’s everywhere, and had little tea-lights all around the room.
Speaking of Santa…
In Scandinavia you put out Christmas porridge instead of cookies and milk for Santa. Santa will eat this the night before Christmas Eve (the BIG day up north). We always put the porridge for Santa on my grandma’s front steps. The porridge is also meant for the little gnome that, according to folklore, lives on every farm. The little gnome helps the humans out during the year, he’s very patient but he wants his sweet, white porridge with milk come Christmas Eve. If he does not get it he’ll play tricks on you. SO, you better be good to him!
This is how a farm gnome looks...Ever seen one?
picture borrowed from www.janwestling.com
The real Santa arrives on the evening of the 24: th. He’ll knock on the door, and he asks his standard question:
Are there any good kids in this house?
All the kids are sure to be good this night. Santa sits down, maybe you’ll offer him a glass of glögg (or a whiskey maybe), you’ll chat with him for a while, and then he starts giving out the presents from his BIG sack! When he is gone you can open your gifts.
This, my friends, is the Scandinavian tradition!
And, to be at my grandparents little farm meant lots of outdoor play in the snow, sledding, using the “kick” or kick-sled, playing on their milk-sled, building snow castles and snow lights. Oh the memories…
Then we would go inside and drink hot tea or hot chocolate, eat lots of sandwiches, a good dinner and of course--eat candy. The grown-ups would drink Coffee around the clock. Finland is the number one coffee nation in the world—morning coffee, 11 o’clock coffee, afternoon coffee, evening coffee, and then a cup here and there during the day as well. Yes, indeed! Sweden is right behind them when it comes to coffee. Scandinavia runs on caffeine, and you would not dare to suggest “de-caf”.
At night we would sit in my grandparent’s cozy and big kitchen watching TV or playing board games.
I miss it! I love it! And the ultimate Christmas for me is celebrated on Stenö in Norrnäs, Närpes, Finland…
Oh those blue twilight hours….