This coming weekend will see the official beginning of the Christmas season in Finland, with Advent Sunday taking place on December 2nd. Already in Helsinki, and in many other Finnish towns and cities, the Christmas tree is up and illuminated in the square, and festive lights adorn the main shopping streets, as well as the windows of all the stores. As the home of Joulupukki, or Santa Claus, one would expect Finland to make an effort during the Christmas season, and it never disappoints. Some of the key attractions, apart from the jolly man in red himself, are the Christmas Markets which are to be found in virtually every city in Finland; within these markets both tourists and locals alike can find all manner of seasonal gifts and decorations while enjoying displays, performances and, of course, Christmas food and drink.
This is especially true of the larger cities, like Helsinki, Turku, Tampere and Rovaniemi, but these markets can be found just about everywhere. The focus is usually on Finnish handicrafts and design, especially traditional Christmas decorations and table wares. There are always stalls selling homemade Christmas delicacies like gingerbread, hot pancakes, and pastries, as well as the the ubiquitous glögi, a spicy mulled wine into which there might be some vodka added for an extra kick.
The first of the Christmas markets to open in Helsinki this year will be Ornamo’s Design Christmas Market in Valkoinen Sali (the White Hall) on Aleksentarinkatu by Senate Square. Ornamo is an organisation of professionals who specialise in industrial design, fashion, textile and furniture design, interior design, craft art and textile art, and the members will be offering their wares on the 2nd and 3rd of December, and then again on the 5th & 6th of December, with different producers showing at each opening: works by over 70 artisans on the 2nd and 3rd, and by another group of over 60 artisans on the 5th and 6th.
The oldest of the markets is Naisten Joulumessut, or the Women’s Christmas Market, which has been held every year since 1922, and which is held in wonderful premises of Wanha Satama in Katajanokka. It was organised for the first time in 1922 by the Finnish Feminist Association in order to encourage women to make their own products and earn some income from them. All the products on sale have been made by women, and include handicrafts, clothes, textiles, jewellery, toys, Christmas decorations and lots of different baked goods. The profits go to support the work of the Finnish women’s cultural association. The market is open from the 5th until the 9th of December, from 10am until 6pm.
Moved last year from its traditional location of Esplanade Park, Tuomaan markkinat, or St. Thomas’ Christmas Market, will once again be held in Senate Square, and will be open from the 7th until the 22nd of December. A traditional handicrafts Christmas fair, there will be over 120 stalls selling all manner of handicrafts, baked goods, and other Christmas specialties. The market is open from 10am to 7pm from Monday to Friday, and from 10am until 6pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Finally, from the 9th until the 22nd of December, the Old Student’s Hall (Vanha), at the top of Aleksanterinkatu, hosts its annual indoor Christmas market, Vanhan Joulumyyjäiset. On sale are an abundance of handicrafts, candles, knitwear, ceramics, cards and clothes. This is one of the most traditional markets in Finland, and one of the largest.
There are two Christmas Markets being held in Vantaa this year. The first is located in Myyrmäki centre on the 1st and 2nd of December, and the second in Tikkurila Square on the 8thof December.
Although it is one of the smaller towns on Finland’s Baltic coast, Porvoo is also one of the oldest towns with long and rich traditions that relate to the season, holding numerous different Christmas markets, and attracting countless visitors every year from within Finland and from abroad. On December 1st, there will be Christmas bazaars held in Seurakuntakoti (Parish Hall) at Lundinkatu 5 from 10am until 2pm; in WSOYtalo at Linnankoskenkatu 32 from 10am until 2pm; in JuhlaHelmi in the Old Town from 11am until 5pm; and in the Rainbow Steiner daycare centre on Runeberginkatu 17. Then, from December 13th until 16th, Porvoo Art Factory Christmas Market will be open, with handicrafts, local food, clothing and accessories – all handmade – on offer.
These are all just introductions to the main event, which is the Porvoo Christmas Fair, which includes the Old Days Christmas Fair, both held on the 15th and 16th of December. The latter is held in Palokunntalo in Porvoo Old Town, and is notable as stall holders appear in traditional costumes and offer a veritable bounty of handicrafts and gifts, Christmas decorations and delicacies, in an atmosphere that is utterly unique. The former is in Old Town Hall Square, with numerous stalls selling all manner of handicrafts, decorations, gifts, and delicacies.
Finally, on the 22nd of December, there is the Pellinki Christmas Market, which is held in two locations, Skärgårdshemmet & Santasaari Market Square, where the focus is on the archipelago near Porvoo, with fish delicacies, pastries, handicrafts, Christmas flowers and trees for sale. Visitors can enjoy coffee, mulled wine, pastries, rice porrige and sausages, and even get to meet Santa Claus and Moomins. There are guided excursions that leave by bus from Porvoo at 9.30am, which includes the Christmas Fair in Skärgårdshemmet and Santasaari Market Square, a visit to fisherman Martin Tillman’s shop and a stop by the village shop of Söderby-Boden.
Fiskars Village in Raseborg:
The Christmas season begins in Fiskars Village on December 1st, and visitors will find the village to be filled with a warm atmosphere, delicious food and a packed calendar of events. Most shops are open from Tuesday to Friday from 12am until 5pm and on Saturday and Sunday from 11am until 5pm. The season lasts until December 23rd, although visitors should be aware that everything is closed on December 6th, which is Finnish Independence Day and a national bank holiday.
Known in Finland as ‘Christmas City‘, Turku provides some of the best Christmas experiences in the country. The season begins with the opening of the Christmas Fair in the medieval Old Square on the 24th of November, with all manner of entertainments, including a giant elf searching for gifts, fire displays, and lots of Christmas music. There will be a procession, led by the giant elf, to Turku Cathedral where the elf will aid Turku Energia and the Cathedral parish to light up Finland’s number one Christmas Tree. The market will be open on the 1st, 2nd, 8th, 9th, 15th, and 16th of December, from 11am to 5pm. On these weekends, the Old Great Square offers activities for the entire family. In addition to the sales stands, the marketplace will be full of Christmas performances, the cheering smell of gingerbread, and music.
At Santa’s workshop, Santa and his family will greet children in their familiar manner. Meanwhile, the elves Tuike and Torsti will make rounds in the marketplace and make sure children are enjoying themselves, while the elf brothers Vili and Veijari provide entertaining circus performances. In the Brinkkala house, you can also find an old-fashioned Christmas café, and at the Old Town Hall you can listen to beautiful Christmas concerts.
The Luostarinmäki Handicrafts Museum, an outdoor museum that offers an insight into how people lived and worked in pre-industrial Finland, taking visitors 200 years back in time, gets into the Christmas spirit from the 1st of December right through January 13th of 2013.
The Turku Fair and Congress Centre hosts a far more modern and commercial market, in fact the Christmas Bazaar is the largest in the country and attracts between 8,000 and 10,000 visitors annually. Now in its 21st year, it will be held on December 9th.
Kuralan Kylämäki, the Village of Living History, hosts Christmas at Grandmother’s from the 8th until 16thof December, in the Iso-Kohmo Hall. Situated by highway 10 to Hämeenlinna, less than five kilometres from Turku Market Square, Kylämäki can be reached easily by taking the No. 28 bus directly from the Market Square.
The traditional Christmas Market in the town centre’s square is recognised as being Finland’s oldest Middle-European market. Last year there were vendors from Tampere’s twin-towns of Essien and Chemnitz in Germany alongside their Finnish counterparts, and this year both towns will once again be represented. In all, there will be over 50 vendors selling their wares from the 5th to 23rd December 2012, with the market open every day from 10am until 7pm.
While Turku may be known as the Christmas City, the capital of Finnish Lapland is Rovaniemi and it can claim to be home to Santa Claus himself! Just 8km from the city centre lies the magical Santa Claus Village, which can loosely be described as a Christmas market. There are numerous shops, selling gifts and seasonal goods, as well as locally fashioned handicrafts, reindeer rugs and furs, jewellery and much more. Of course, Santa Claus lives here so it’s always possible to visit him, and you can send postcards from his Post Office so they arrive with his special postmark on them.
The highly distinctive Arktikum, which houses the Provincial Museum of Lapland and the Arctic Centre, hosts Arctic Market Days from the 14th to the 16th of December. This will be the fifth time this Christmas market will be held here, and once again emphasis will be on local materials, quality and originality. At the Arctic Market Days you can get familiar with the unique Arctic handicraft tradition, art students’ creations, observe artisans at work and participate in the workshops.
On the 16th of December in the gorgeous surroundings of the medieval Häme Castle, the St. Thomas Christmas Market will be held, and should attract at least 3,000 visitors to enjoy the festivities. Between 50 and 60 stalls will be positioned within the castle, selling locally produced handicrafts, and the baked goods for which the region is famed. The adjacent chapel will host a Christmas service and guided tours of the castle will also be available.
On December 1st and 2nd the Jyväskylä Pavilion will host the Jyväskylä Christmas Fair, with thousands of ideas for creating the perfect Christmas atmosphere, and countless toys, books, crafts, jewelry, and other Christmas goodies on offer. The Pavilion is open from 10am until 5pm on Saturday and from 10am to 4pm on Sunday.
The weekend of the 8th and 9th of December you’ll find the Artisan’s Christmas Market in the Craft Museum of Finland. Around 70 craft and design professionals will be selling Finnish high quality arts and crafts products: designed jewelry, wooden products, textiles, clothes, bags, black smith design, heavy metal products and lots more. There is also a Christmas Café, and free entry to the museums exhibitions.
Located some 40km west of Espoo, the Old Time Christmas Fair of Lohja is Finland’s largest two day market, held annually in the vicinity of the medieval stone church of St. Lawrence, in the very centre of Lohja. Taking place on the 15th and 16th of December, the fair will attract around 250 vendors and thousands of visitors. Visitors can enjoy blazing open fires, tasty homemade snacks, the sound of choirs singing, see blacksmiths at work, and witness Santa’s elves spreading good cheer amongst the crowds. During the Old Time Christmas Fair, visitors can also take the opportunity to visit the Tytyri Mine Museum, situated almost 100 meters underground.
The St. Catherine’s Market will be held on the 8th and 9th of December within the grounds of Lappeenranta Fortress for the 23rdtime, and will feature a wealth of locally made handicrafts and gift ideas, as well as plenty of family entertainments. The market is open from 10am until 4pm.
The Taitokortteli handicraft and culture quarter in the center of Joensuu will convert into a traditional Christmas Village for the Advent weekends in December, with the official opening on December 6th. Christmas Village is a cozy and friendly event, where you can experience the unhurried and genuine sense of Christmas atmosphere and tranquility, open on Saturdays from 10am until 4pm and on Sundays from noon until 4pm. There will also be a more modern Christmas Expo held in the Joensuu Areena on the 15th and 16th of December.
The majestic castle in Savonlinna, Olavinlinna, is Finland’s most impressive medieval castle, famous for the internationally renowned Opera Festival held there every summer. During December, the castle becomes central to the towns festive activities. These begin on December 4th, with a day of carols, Christmas treats, and gymnastic exercises with Santa’s elves. On the 11th, you can enjoy a Christmas lunch in the castle, take a workshop for Christmas decorations, get a ticket for the Christmas lottery, and warm up by a campfire in the big teepee. On the 18th of December the medieval styled St. Thomas Christmas Market takes place, with a visit from Santa Claus on his reindeer-pulled sleigh, Christmas devotionals, and of course plenty of stalls selling gifts, decorations and other seasonal fare. The stalls are to be located within the halls of the castle, while the courtyard will be where all the grills and warm drinks will be sold.
There are two Christmas fairs being held in Vaasa this year. The first is on December 1st, and will take place between 11am and 2pm in the Suvicenter just south of the city centre. This Christmas Bazaar is more of a flea market than a dedicated Christmas market, with a focus on children’s clothing and accessories, with lots of stalls selling glögi and traditional Christmas pastries. The more traditional Christmas Market will take place on the 8th of December at the Tikanoja Art House from noon until 4pm.
The main Christmas market for the city is the indoor Kuopion Joulumarkkinat held in Kuopio-Halli on the 15th and 16th of December. However, of more interest to visitors is the much quainter Pikku-Pietari Torikuja in the city centre, which opens for the festive season on two weekends: from the 14th to the 16th and from the 21st to the 23rd of December, from 10am until 5pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and from noon until 5pm on Sundays.
The Seinäjoki Christmas market has been held in Seinäjoki Arena every year since 2002. It has grown in popularity over the last decade, and is expected to have over 15,000 visitors over the 15th and 16th when it opens. Along with all the traditional stalls selling Christmas decorations, handicrafts and jewelry, there are also furs, art work and carpets, as well as a free carousel for the little ones.
The annual Christmas fair in Oulu is the Naisten Joulumessut, which will be held on the 1st and 2nd of December in Pohjankartano. There will be over 300 stalls, and all proceeds go to the organisers, Mannerheimin Lastensuojeluliiton, a charity that funds preventative child welfare work.
On the 8th of December, the Mansikkala school in Imatra hosts a traditional Christmas Fair from 11am until 2pm in support of local associations, societies, and clubs. On December 14th , Kävelykatu Koskenparras (Imatra’s main pedestrian street) and the square are the location for an outdoor Christmas market, and there is an indoor Christmas Fair in Kulttuuritalo Virta.
The Christmas Market in Old Rauma will open at noon on the 7th of December, and remain open until December 23rd. The market will be open on weekdays from 10am until 6pm, on Saturdays from 10am until 4pm, and Sundays from noon until 4pm, with 2 exceptions: on opening day (Friday 7th) it opens from noon until 9pm, and on the final day (Sunday 23rd) from 9am until 2pm.
The charming coastal town of Loviisa has a number of Christmas festivities that will appeal to visitors. Among these is the opening to the public of a number of private mansions on the weekends of the 8th and 9th, and of the 15th and 16th . These are Ajurintalo, Sininen Talo, Pitkänpöydäntalo, Villa Aaltonen, and Riemumaisterin Huvila. There’s a Christmas market in the Loviisa parish hall on December 1st from 9am until 1pm, another on December 4th from 7am until 6pm in Loviisa Market Square, and a third on the 8th in Österstjernan Hall from 10am until 5pm.
The Old Time Christmas Market (Vanhanajan joulumarkkinat) will be held on the 8th and 9th of December in the marketplace at Town Hall Square, on Kuninkaankatu and Asemakatu. Open from 10am until 4pm, the market has a full program for children that includes Santa’s office, an Elf Christmas workshop where they can learn to bake gingerbread cookies and listen to the elves tell fairy tales, and a special Children’s Christmas village with a variety of animals and pony rides.
The traditional St. Thomas Christmas Market will be held on December 21st and 22nd in the Kauppatori, Kävelykatu and Eetunaukio.