Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Finnish Easter Experience

Easter (Pääsiäinen) in Finland is a distinctly different experience than what is celebrated in the United States.  The Palm Sunday before Easter the kids dress up like witches and go door to door collecting sweets.   Reminiscent of the trick-or-treat tradition in the British Isles and North America, this practice is believed to be a mixture of Orthodox Easter blessing customs from Eastern Finland with pre-Christian rituals from Western Finland and Scandinavia.  The kids must recite a rhyme in Finnish and they exchange a decorated branch before receiving their treats.  The Finnish rhyme is: Virvon varvon, tuoreeks terveeks, tulevaks vuueks, ison talon isännäks. Vitsa sulle, palkka mulle.

I really enjoy the long Holiday weekends in Finland and Easter is no exception.  Both Friday and Monday are official Holidays, making Easter a 4-day weekend in Finland.  In the United States some people get "Good Friday" off while others just have a normal 2-day weekend.   In Finland, most of the businesses shut down on the long weekend (with exception to Saturday) so many people leave town for vacation.  In Finland most people already get 5-6 weeks of vacation, so these long weekends are a nice addition to the already generous time off policies.  Many folks I had spoken to decided to go downhill skiing in Northern Finland and there is usually still plenty of snow up there at this time of year. 

In addition to eggs and chocolate sweets, traditional Finnish Easter dishes include Ham, Lamb and Mämmi.  Mämmi, a distinctively Finnish desert dish is made from water, rye flour, and powdered rye malt, seasoned with dark molasses, salt, and dried powdered Seville orange peel.  Some are afraid to eat Finnish Mämmi because of it's consistency and dark brown appearance.  It really isn't that scary and besides being kind of thick and filling, doesn't taste all that bad.  It is traditionally eaten with cream and sugar.  Give it a try if you are ever visiting Finland during Easter time.

It recently got a bit colder and snowed a little bit on Palm Sunday and remained cool (25-38 F) during the entire week leading up to Easter.  The Finns said that these brief returns to Winter during Spring are common, and they call them "Takaisin Talvi" or "Back Winter".  Old Man Winter may have reared his ugly head again and placed Spring on hold, but the days are longer, the sun is out and the snow has almost all melted.  You can definitely feel Spring in the air, and now I am just waiting for the warmer barometer to stay longer.


  1. while i think mammi looks nasty, i would love to travel there and try it myself :)

  2. It reminds me of gingerbread, which is also made with molasses, and the added orange peel sounds great. It doesn't look nasty to me at all.