Halloween in Finland – is it a tradition?

I can recall that a year after landing in Finland for first time, the new Erasmus group living there told me that Halloween was a solid tradition in Finland.

I didn’t remember that from my own time on Erasmus, although it is definitely true that I went to my share of Halloween parties. This sparked my curiosity and I decided it was time to find out for myself whether or not Halloween in Finland is truly an important event for the Finns.

A Halloween party in Finland
A Halloween party I went to in Joensuu.

Does Halloween exist in Finland?

Asking my Finnish friends, my number one source of information on Finland, their answer was “not really”. Halloween in Finland is more for young people and an excuse as good as any other to throw a small party and hang out with friends. It isn’t a tradition and the kids don’t go door to door asking for Fazer goodies.

Even so, there is a time where the youngest members of Finnish households go to the street in search of candy. It is not Halloween, but Palm Sunday (something we’ll talk in detail next Easter): kids dress as witches, take around decorated birch branches and use their undeniable charm to get sweets.

What is actually celebrated these days in Finland: All Saints day

For adults, in Finland the whole Halloween idea isn’t about costumes or candy. The tradition is to celebrate – and commemorate – All Saints day.

Finnish people on the cemetetery
This is how Finns celebrate All Saints: they go to a cemetery and light thousands of candles

All Saints day in Finland is celebrated the first Saturday after the 30th of October, and is a great day to go to the cemetery with the whole family, to visit and honor relatives by lighting candles, and to see how everyone else has done the same, making the view of the entire cemetery a very solemn and spectacular sight.

These days the shops are full of candles, and they even have special shelves for them.

Nonetheless – and despite the different nature of these days in Finland -, you might be invited to a Halloween party these days. And the younger you are, the more chances you’re likely have. After all, it’s never a bad time to meet up with friends, right?

Have you been around during Halloween or All Saints time in Finland? How was it for you?


World’s top 5 strangest and weirdest saunas

The sauna is a place for relaxation in Finland and abroad. And it is one of everybody’s favorite parts of traveling to Finland (myself included). Saunas really are something that stretches outside of the country, as evidenced by the fact that sauna is the only Finnish word that has been widely adopted by other languages.

Not long ago we saw the 3 types of Finnish sauna, but today we’ll go further and leave the “normal” saunas aside. Everything that is traditional has its evolution and its extreme homages. That’s just human nature. And that’s why we’ve brought you the world’s 5 strangest saunas, most of them in Finland.

1.- Sauna in a phone booth

A sauna inside a telephone booth
Image: Phonebooth sauna. Copyright: Oktober Oy. Source.

When I saw the movie-documentary Miesten Vuoro, I was impressed with this sauna-booth. And, as every phone booth worthy of its name, you could see what was going on inside.

This sauna can contain two people at a time. It brings the word “public” to a whole new level: the transparency of the booth ensures that everyone passing by can see you having a sauna. You can also transport it everywhere, since it has a couple of wheels to move it around easily.

2.- Underwater sauna

The Under water Sauna
Wet inside and outside.

Usually saunas – at least the ones you can find next to a mökki, a Finnish cottage – have a view of the forest or a nearby lake. Apparently, someone thought “why not make the view from the sauna some beautiful underwater scenery?” And so they built it.

In this sauna the walls are made of glass. One goes down a ladder and reaches the heating room, which has a breathtaking view. You can see people having a swim or fishes outside the sauna walls, all while enjoying the steam and relaxing. This underwater sauna is located in Gothenburg, Sweden.

3.- The Ice Sauna

A sauna made with ice
The entrance of this ice sauna. Source.

High temperatures plus walls of ice. Why not?, they thought. The walls and the floor of this sauna are made of ice, but the creators had the good sense to stick with tradition when making the seats, which are made out of wood. There is no sauna stranger than this: it has an expiration date, since it only lasts some sauna sessions before it melts and must be re-built.

One of the great characteristics of ice is that it is a great insulator – that’s why igloos are made out of ice – and therefore, this sauna can keep the hot temperatures inside. The steam that comes out of this sauna, combined with the coolness of the surrounding materials, must make for a very special sensation. The temperature inside is a bit lower than in the traditional saunas – around 70 degrees Celsius. There are some of them in Finland, such as the one in the photos, which is located in Ruka, Lapland.

Ice Sauna
The inside of the Ice Sauna. Source.

4.- The sauna in the Hockey Stadium

Sauna inside a stadium
This is how you see Helsinki’s Hartwall Areena from the sauna. Source.

I think the majority of us have never been inside a VIP skybox at a stadium. When I was younger I worked in Real Madrid’s stadium bar so I could see the matches for free, and I was already thrilled about that. But when your VIP Skybox has a sauna inside… well, that’s definitely in another league.

This is what happens in Finland, and one of the skyboxes of the Hartwall Areena – Helsinki’s ice hockey stadium, where big concerts are also held – has exactly this. There’s nothing like seeing your favorite team or band while throwing water on the sauna stones.

5.- The Sauna-boat

A sauna-boat
Diving on the water after a sauna session doesn’t get better than this. Source.

This is a sub-category of mobile saunas (I have seen a sauna on a car trailer more than once) but this is the strangest form because the transport and the sauna are joint together in one: a boat. And I am not talking about a sauna inside a cruise ship: I am talking about a boat that has a sauna and not much else at all.

These kinds of ships usually also have some of the things that make a sauna great. Namely, plenty of water to dive into on all sides less than a meter away (some boats even have a slide on them) and a barbecue to grill some makkara, the classic Finnish sausage. In Finland, and specifically in Helsinki, one can board the M/S Saunaship Helsinki to have this experience. But these Sauna boats are also available in many other parts of the world; I’ve seen them in Stockholm and Berlin as well.

What’s the strangest sauna for you? How was the weirdest sauna you’ve seen or you’ve taken? Let us know in the comments.


Autumn in Finland: the Ruska and its colors

The beginning of the autumn is a great time to be in Finland. Whether you’re looking out a window, walking through the streets or simply standing in a forest, intense colors are all around you. The Finns call it the Ruska, but there is a lot more to this period of the Autumn in Finland than just a word. Let’s dive right in.

Autumn in Finland

The Autumn in Finland

At this time of year, all the deciduous trees are shaking off their leaves to get ready for the winter. In Finland, a country covered with trees, this is quite a big deal.

This is also noticeable in the cities covered with vegetation. When the Autumn in Finland arrives the process of the leaves changing color begins. The trees and bushes show different shades of red, bright brown and yellow and make the country seem like a magical place.

Train Tracks

What is the Ruska

During autumn in Finland, you can use the word Ruska to describe the colored leaves. The word describes their vibrant colors, as well as the very moment of the Autumn. This is a special time in the country since there is still plenty of daylight to enjoy and the temperatures are still above freezing. The Ruska is the last reminder to enjoy the days before the winter comes and lays the snow all over the country.

Since Finland is full of wilderness, as we mentioned before, this can be seen everywhere. Every corner of the country will be special for the many shades of color that it displays. Some streets will be mostly red, while others more yellow, and others brown or purple. Every day will be slightly different than the day before. And the falling leaves make a colorful carpet on the cities and forest.

Ruska in Joensuu
The colors of the Autumn in Finland.

What I like about the Ruska

It is the fact taht in Finnish language you only have one word – and avery short one, at just five letters – to describe the phenomena. Other languages have two or three words for it, or perhaps even an entire sentence. It is said that this period of the Autumn in Finland is especially beautiful on the northernmost part of the country, Lapland. I saw the autumn in Joensuu and Helsinki, and I have to say that if it’s even better in Lapland, it must be truly unbelievable.

The perfect moment for seeing the Ruska is the end of September and the beginning of October. Every year, nonetheless, is slightly different and it usually arrives in Lapland one week before the rest of the country. If you want to see more photos of it these are all the images on Flickr tagged with this word. For instance the following.

Autumn in Finland: the Ruska
Beautifully covered floor. Source.

Have you experienced the Ruska in the Autumn in Finland? What did you think and feel? Let us know in the comments.


Maps of Finland vs. Europe that you didn’t know about

A physical map of Finland is a useful thing, but it doesn’t tell you much about the people who live there. The maps of Finland shown in this article put the country into a European context, and are useful for knowing more about what goes on within its borders.

Maps of Finland: genetics and more

Let’s start with a couple of maps of Finland that would confirm the Finnish physical stereotype: they are naturally blonde with blue eyes. One must add, though, that there are many Finns that dye their hair color dark.

Maps of Finland: blondes
Being Spanish, I have to admit that it comes as an interesting fact that Galicia is the region of the Iberian peninsula with the most blondes. Even so, Finland and the other Nordic countries still have the largest blonde population on the continent. In the north of Finland, where more Saami people live (they are naturally dark-haired), the blond concentration is smaller.

Maps of Finland: blue eyes
In terms of blue eyes, the same is true: Finland has a high concentration of blue-eyed people. In the far northern region, and due to the Saami population, the concentration of blue eyes drops. In a post at some point in the near future, we will talk about who the Saami people are and about their culture.

So far so good: most Finnish people I know fall into the patterns outlined above.

Maps of Finland: living standards

But what about going beyond the physical type? Here are some other interesting maps of Finland too.

Map of Finland on children well being

Finland has been rated as one of the top (that is, best) countries to be a kid (in 4th place after the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark, Source), and one best countries to be a mother (6th place, Source). Therefore, it’s no surprise to see Finland doing this well on this map either.

Productivity map of Finland

The Nordic countries, and Finland among them, have a broad reputation of being places with especially high salaries. That is true, but they also have some of the highest taxation in the world. In any case, we can also see on these maps of Finland VS Europe that they still are among the most productive countries in Europe, and Finland is therefore a good place to have a career. Iceland doesn’t seem to be doing too well after the crisis, and neither is my good old Spain.

Source of the maps: Eupedia.com. You can check out many more maps of Finland vs. Europe there, but I found these ones to be the most interesting.

What do you think about these maps of Finland? Is there any  other that you’d like to point out?