Nowadays, Finnish kids believe that Joulupukki, the Finnish Santa Claus, is very close by and lives in Rovaniemi, Lapland, in Northern Finland.
But the story behind Joulupukki is different from the generous, round and lovely Father Christmas of today.
The name Joulupukki, means Yule Goat. There are many versions of the story behind the Yule goat. But many believe it’s connected to fertility mysteries. Yule was an old midwinter Germanic pagan festival. In the pagan history of Finland there is an ancient Finnish harvest festival named Kerki, which related to Yule. Kerki was celebrated around September till November (the same time as Halloween of today). Every family celebrated Kerki on different day when all their harvest was collected. It was considered as the beginning of a new year as well. The food was supposed to be left on the table all night long. That way they believed it will be enough food for the whole year. In Kerki, a man dressed as a goat, with horns and fur, usually drunk, went from home to home and demented alcohol and food.
On Christmas, Finns (and other Nordic countries) decorate their houses with harvest goat made of straw which is bond with red ribbon, the remains of Yule goat and Kerki.
When Christianity came to Finland, Kerki changed to Saint’s Day and Christmas. The look of the modern Santa is actually a Coca-Cola’s Christmas advertisements from the 1930s, which created by the Finnish American artist Haddon Sundblom, whose family roots are from Åland islands in Finland.
Todays, Joulupukki visits homes on Christmas eve and gives presents to kids, not demands them. Unlike the American and English Santa, he doesn’t come out of the chimney or fly on his reindeers. Joulupukki rings the bell and comes thru the door. He asks out loud “Onko täällä kilttejä lapsia?” - “Are there any well-behaved children here?” and gives gifts to the kids.
The Finnish Santa is not concerned about the dark past behind his character. He’s going by the moto “to make the child living in every person smile”.
The best part of holidays in general, and in Christmas as well, is bringing families together. In the darkest time of the winter people all around the world for centuries found a reason to celebrate. By lighting candles to overcome the darkness and spend some quality time with their loved ones.
Enjoy your holiday of light, no matter what you are and where you are from
Written by: Dana
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