Hours of daylight in Finland and Lapland during the year

This past November has been one of the gloomiest in Finland. Besides the very few hours of daylight that there are at this time of the year, there were only 12 hours of direct sunlight during the first 26 days of November in Helsinki (40 hours is the usual). In Lapland that number was up to 23 hours, which is still very few for those of us accustomed to lots of sunlight.

Hours of daylight: Finland is a country of extremes in that regard

A quarter of Finland’s surface – Lapland – is over the Arctic Polar Circle. Over that imaginary line, at least a day per year the sun doesn’t set and at least a day per year the sun doesn’t rise. In rest of Finland, south of that line, it is not that extreme, but there are pretty steep changes in the hours of daylight during the different months and seasons as well.

Hours of daylight in summer
Finland has moments with a lot of daylight and sunlight: this is a photo of the midnight sun. Source (CC: by).

So, if we are planning our trip to Finland, either for tourism and discovery, or to visit someone we care for, it is good to know what we are going to find in terms of how long the daytime lasts.

Daylight hours in Helsinki, Jyväskylä and Sodankylä (Lapland)

In this table from the Finnish Meteorological Institute we can see how many daylight hours there are in Helsinki (and by extension in other places in the South of Finland), in Jyväskylä (Central Finland) and in Sodankylä (in the Finnish North – the place that was the National Center for Northern Light observation of Finland).

Hours of Daylight in Lapland, Helsinki and Jyväskylä
Exact times where the sun rises and sets in different locations across Finland. Also the length of day. Source.

We can also see that data in a more visual form in this graph. I made it with the data from the Meteorological Institute. Another way to see it visually too is to see this fantastic video in time lapse comparing a summer day and a winter day in Helsinki, one next to the other.

Length of Day in Helsinki, Lapland and Central Finland

We can see both in the graphic and the data that Sodankylä in Lapland is the place that has the most extreme changes. It is a place where we can see the Midnight Sun in the summer and the Kaamos (the polar night) during winter.

The line for Jyväskylä, 270km North of Helsinki, and the captital’s one are not as steep as the Lapland one, and are actually quite close to each other. But even like that, we have long summer days and short winter nights compared to the rest of Europe.

Hours of daylight, yes, but also a lot of clouds

And we finish today’s post as we started it. Besides knowing the daylight hours and the length of day that we can find in different parts of Finland, we have to take another factor into account: the clouds.

This past November was unusually cloudy, but the usual level of cloudiness is actually quite high too, as we mentioned. In comparison with the countries of Southern Europe, you get as many hours of sunlight in two days as Helsinki and other Finnish places might have in a month.

That can be pretty hard for those who are accustomed to lots of sunlight, even in winter. It is one of the things I miss the most while living abroad. Nature has a way of bringing balance to Finland by making natural wonders such as summer days with white nights and the Midnight Sun.

If you live in Finland, how do you manage the changes in the hours of daylight? And the cloudy winters?

Gordon Ramsay in Lapland: eating reindeer meat

We already talked about chef Gordon Ramsay trying Finnish food for the first time. I already said in that post that they should have given him some reindeer meat to try. Dishes with this kind of meat have always been my favorites of the Finnish cuisine.

A dish made with reindeer meat
A reindeer dish. It looks amazing. Source (CC: by)

And that’s what they have done this time: Ramsay went to Lapland, the North of Finland (to the Finnish city of Ivalo, to be exact) to try some reindeer meat. All of it framed by the Christmas time in Finland. ThisisFINLAND’s twitter account shared this happy link during this time of the year.

Gordon Ramsay visits Lapland

When I first watched this video of Gordon Ramsay tasting reindeer meat, and heard it starting with the first notes of “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis” from Tom Waits (his song “Big in Japan” inspired the title of this blog), I knew it was going to be a great video.

Ramsay said that he heard that reindeer meat tastes like the best beef, and goes to Lapland to prove this theory: You can see him taste it and cook it in different ways.

Gordon Ramsay
Chef Ramsay. I am a huge fan of his Master Chef USA. Source (CC: by)

Gordon Ramsay cooks and tastes reindeer meat: the video

This video is short but intense: about 15 minutes. Under it I wrote some highlights, by the minute, so you can conveniently skip to the part that interests you most.

The video is part of the “The F word” series. F of “food“, I presume, but another word that Gordon says a lot also starts with “F”. In some segments of this show he prepares some traditional dish for a celebration. This is the cause for his visit to Lapland: it’s Christmas time.

1.00 – Ramsay shows us the menu of a restaurant in Ivalo, a place where there are less cows than reindeer, and less people than reindeer too. He tastes the reindeer meat in different ways: smoked, sautéd and as a steak. He definitely likes this delicacy of Lapland.

2:35 – Ramsay meets with a Sami (the indigenous people from Lapland) that breed and hunt reindeer.

5:35 – Ramsay and the father of the family talk about whether it is better to hunt reindeer or take them to the slaughterhouse. Ramsay starts to get ready to hunt a reindeer.

7:10 – The last considerations and pulling the trigger.

8:20 – They skin the reindeer and show the reindeer meat.

9:40 – Ramsay has everything ready to cook the reindeer meat. He is going to prepare a stew with it. He uses local ingredients including lakka (cloudberry): a celebrated berry indigenous to Lapland in the north of Finland. He uses snow instead of water to add to the stew (I wouldn’t do that: it may contain – let’s say – some organic matter).

12.25 – Ramsay makes reindeer carpaccio from the meat and also prepares some glögi.

13:45 – The Sami family try the dishes of chef Ramsay and give their approval (they eat reindeer meat about 6 times a week, but Ramsay prepares it in a different way to how they are used to). As a token of thanks, they give Ramsay some dried reindeer penis meat – or that is how it seems, until the surprise is revealed.

The video ends, and it seems to me to be a great feature about cooking and eating reindeer meat in Finland and Lapland. Maybe it is a dish to consider when you prepare your Christmas dinner or your new year’s dinner.

Have you tried reindeer meat? Would you after watching the video?

A letter to Santa Claus: how to do it and his address

When you want to write a letter to Santa Claus, you have to take into account that he is a busy man.

We all know he lives in Lapland, specifically in Rovaniemi, where you can go and visit him in his office.

Santa Claus and his first lady
Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus in their Lapland house. Source (CC: by)
If Lapland is too far away for you this year, but you still want to tell Santa Claus your Christmas wishes and make sure your letter reaches him in the Arctic Circle in Finland, you’ll need to know how to write to him.

Sending a letter to Santa Claus to his correct address

Each year in late November, the Christmas season is inaugurated in Finland. Joulupukki (the Finnish name of Santa Claus) visits every Finnish city or town in person, usually in the main square, to wish everyone a merry Christmas. It is extremely easy to go and meet him because normally the streets near the center have a system of underground heating that melts the snow and makes it easy for people to walk around.

You should know that any letter that says “Santa Claus” will magically reach its destination: post offices all around the world are warned and know how to handle the letters to Santa Claus.

But if you want Santa to know that you were so interested that you researched his address, you can put his correct one on the envelope.

Your letter to Santa Claus will reach him
Some kids meeting Santa Claus in person. Source (CC: by-sa)

Santa Claus and his elfs (called Tonttu in Finland) will appreciate this detail and will know you worked for your presents. This is his address:

Santa Claus
96930 Arctic Circle,

That’s right: the letter to Santa Claus will go all the way North to the Polar Arctic Circle, the imaginary line above which the sun doesn’t rise at least for a day per year, and where it doesn’t set at least for one day a year.

And here comes the best thing: if you add your return address, he will write you back. Isn’t that great?

How to make your letter to Santa Claus better

There is no magic recipe or template to make your letter to Santa Claus right, but there are some tips that will assure that you’ll be in his good graces.

Santa Claus doesn’t want you to sugarcoat the truth. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so lying in your letter will make you look bad. It is better to acknowledge that there are some areas where you can work on to be better next year, and tell him how you became a better person this year. Being good is a constant process.

Thank him for last year’s presents, even if they weren’t 100% what you asked for. He has to handle a global operation each year after all. And don’t ask for too much! If you need something – a bike to ride to school with, something warm to wear for the extreme cold of winter in Finland – make sure to tell him that. He prefers to read that you wish for things you need, not just want.

Santa Claus, Joulupukki, in Helsinki
Joulupukki in Helsinki, measuring this girl’s back to send her a fitting coat. Source (CC: by)
All those tips were given to me by Joulupukki in person, so if you want to be on good terms with him, tell him that you are friends of Big in Finland and you’ll get the VIP treatment.

Good luck with this year’s Christmas gifts! This is our list of 12 ideas of Finnish Christmas presents, to give you inspiration. May Santa Claus and his Tonttu be generous, and you a good girl or boy.

Do you have some extra advice for the letter to Santa Claus? Some tip that worked for you?

Glögi: hot spiced wine in Finland

Jouluppuki (Santa Claus) is coming to town, and adults in Finland warm their bodies and hearts with Christmas markets, lights in the streets and some hot beverages. We will talk about one of these beverages today: the Glögi.

What is Glögi?

Glögi is one of the traditions of Finnish Christmas. It is an unknown beverage in Southern Europe (Hot wine? With spices? Nobody ever dared to think of it), but in Central and Northern Europe mulled wine is a classic winter beverage: each country has its own version of it.

Glögi is its Finnish name, and as the headline revealed it is made from hot red wine and different spices such as cinnamon, sugar and clove. The Scandinavian and Nordic versions sometimes add almonds and raisins, which give their version of the mulled wine a nice finish: when the beverage is gone, you can have a nice bite with the same flavor and a bit of nuttiness.

The German version, arguably the most well known, is called Glüwein and is served at all hours in the Christmas markets that flood the cities and are full all day. So, when I ordered some and asked them why the name wasn’t Glögi, they looked at me in a strange way and told me that no, it was just called Glüwein. That is how I had the idea for this post.

A pot of Glögi
A pot of hot Glögi with almonds. Source (CC: by)

The first time I tried Glögi

My first time with this beverage in Finland was in the house of a Finnish friend. He was preparing it in a big pot on the stove. The first time, I didn’t like it very much, as it was such an unusual taste for me; but in the end its taste grew on me.

That wasn’t the last time I drank Glögi, though. It is available in every Christmas market and every bar. If it is not too cold, many places have outside kiosks that sell it “to go” as well, so every year I get one or two cups to join the Christmas spirit. There is also a version that I favour, the one that has a bit of rum in it.

DIY: the recipe for making Glögi

I never learned how to do it, but the recipe – if you want to do it at home too – is this one:

1 bottle of red wine
2-3 tbsp Madeira wine (optional)
1/2 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of raisins
1-2 cinnamon sticks
5-6 orange peels
1/4 cup of peeled almonds
1/4 cup of vodka or rum to add the extra kick (optional)

Heat it all up – don’t cook it though – and have a nice pot of Glögi. Let us know your tricks for it on the comments, and we can all try different variations this Christmas time.

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