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Merry Christmas from EOSC-Nordic

Jonna Helenius

Have you ever thought of how Christmas traditions differ in the Nordics?

As we are winding down towards the end of the year and looking forward to the upcoming holidays, we here at EOSC-Nordic were thinking about Christmas traditions that unite us and make us different.

Food is one thing that arguably unites us all, it plays a pivotal role in all of our Christmas traditions, be it Janssons frestelse in Sweden or gravlax in Finland. We can all agree that these foods are something we look forward to having during the holidays. But what about the traditions that differ?

Did you know that in Denmark it is a tradition to walk around the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve and sing, while the candles are lit and the gifts are underneath the tree? Family and friends join hands and sing a number of Christmas carols. And generally, the last song is always the one called ”Nu er det jul igen” and is sung repeatedly while running around the entire house before ending up around the tree again.

Or that in Norway on Christmas Eve it is a custom to eat either roast pork belly called ”ribbe” or lamb ribs called ”pinnekjøtt”. Pinnekjøtt is a particular Norwegian dish with salted and dried ribs from a sheep. In Norway, it is also common to have a decorated Christmas tree, but not many people walk around it and sing.

In Finland, the Christmas festivities start with the Declaration of Christmas Peace. It is announced in several Finnish cities on Christmas Eve. The oldest and most popular event is held at noon at the Old Great Square of the city of Turku where the declaration has been read since the 1320s. Christmas Peace is based on the old Scandinavian tradition of ensuring peace at Christmas time as wrongdoers in the olden days received harsher punishment than usual. Nowadays it is more related to being respectful of the holidays.

And in Estonia, both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are often celebrated with the ritual of taking a bath in the sauna before going to church for mass. Christmas presents are opened on Christmas Eve as in many Nordic countries, but to “earn” them, everyone has to sing, dance or recite a poem first.

There are many more traditions than we can possibly think of, and we hope that you have a wonderful Christmas filled with traditions of your own.