Friday, October 31, 2008

Have a HORRIBLY Good Halloween!

Finns don't really 'do' Halloween... (sadly for me) The witches all come out at Easter instead - that was quite something to get used to originally!

However, its way too cold right now, with all the snow - to be out trick or treating! That said, there is generally snow around at Easter too.. but at least it is lighter then! :D

So, this year.. no pumpkin. There werent any in my local Valintatalo store this year. Last year they had them - just not this year. Fiddlesticks! Or should that be Broomsticks?!! Oh well, I still have plenty of Pumpkin in the freezer, for Pumpkin Pie and Pumpkin cookies. I know Ive had it there a long time.. but its still fine! We love those foods in this house! I will have to make do with the e-Pumpkin on this blog instead! :D

As you can see below, the Finns DO make reference to it.. here in a Kmarket supermarket leaflet it wishes Hirveän Hyvää Halloweenia! (Have a horribly good Halloween! as my blog title says) but such reference is limited and Finns in general fight the urge to have Halloween parties! I remember one friend of mine telling me that she 'once' had some children call to 'trick or treat' and she was incensed. She told them to go away and come back at Easter - the proper time to do it! They must have thought SHE was the Witch! LOL... poor kids!

For the Witch or Pagan communities the serious time of Hallowe'en brings Samhain on November 1st, one of the eight annual festivals (Sabbats) during the Wheel of the year. Samhain is the celebration of death and of the dead - of paying respects to those who have passed on, be they ancestors, learned elders, friends, pets etc - indeed these same spirits may well be 'invited to attend' in celebrations.

It marks one of the two great doorways of the year - the two seasons - of the light and of the dark. Samhain, being diametrically positioned to that of Beltane at Spring, May 1st, when fertility, life and light is celebrated. During the dark months that follow Samhain, there comes time for us to look back at the old and make way for the new with a joyful heart. That’s what this time of year represents. The death of the old, so that when Spring comes again, it has a fresh start. Autumn falls it's leaves..with the season of death and subsequent renewal.

The eve of November 1st, (the night of October 31st), is a most magical, potent time - known today to most people of course, as Halloween - when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest.

November 1st in Finland though, is Pyhäinpäivää (Holy Day/All Saint's Day/Day of the Dead). At least it is that date this year! As it can fall anywhere between the 31st October to the 6th November - dependant upon WHEN the Saturday falls, as its always a Saturday. Its also a public holiday - so all the shops are shut!

Many, many Saints days used to be celebrated annually in Finland, but apparently, over time, the Lutheran church ended most of the individual Saints days, all but the "All Holy Men's Day" remained. (Maybe there were too many holidays and no work got done!!)

So on the 1st, from the afternoon onwards - or at least after darkness falls, many Finns will take trips up to nearby graves, and leave a candle or flowers in memory of the dead there. At home, Finns can also light a candle in memory of someone close that has passed on.

Its a truly beautiful view in the cemetery - all aglow with thousands of candles. I've tried many times to capture it with my camera - and tomorrow will be no exception. If I get a decent photo or even a semi decent photo - I will share it with you! These two images, I found on google.

Around the world Halloween is held as a bit of fun - yet should truly be preserved with reverence and honour....whether you are Pagan or not... time to be thankful of the past and the present (the good and the bad) and to remember those who have passed on in spirit.

Love to all....

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

White snowy Lapland

Lapland is white again! :D

On Monday, (27th October) it started to snow.. it was evening time and we were driving home after going to the Post Office.

The snowflakes were HUGE! I mean REALLY HUGE, definitely the largest I've seen here EVER. They were all pretty much bigger than a 50p piece...and they were settling...rapidly!!

BIG snow..

I took this photo the following morning, just in case by the afternoon the snow had gone (as I suspected it might)...BUT it is still here....

The following morning, 28th October

The thing about the starting of winter in Lapland, is that it is a VERY fickle thing. Generally we get a snow, then a melt and then a rapid freeze...leading to lots of horrid clear or black/hidden ice that can be many inches thick! October is generally a month that I do not like for those reasons! I am paranoid about it actually, as the first year that I lived here, I slipped heavily and fell on the ice near the Post Office and broke my left elbow - NASTY!

This snow however, is NOT the first we have had this month.. our first snow was on the 9th October and surprised us by lasting the whole day.. not just a flurry and gone.. but after that it went rapidly! Fortunately it didn't turn to ice...

9th October's snow.....

((((What a difference from the Autumnal colour of September eh! LOL...))))

So, today I am pleased to say that the snow is still here and being added to...I hope that it continues going and doesn't stop-start again.. but with the global warming as it is.. I expect that it WILL... :( The long range forecast seems to offer a few days before there is risk of rain 30-40% chance - lets hope we dont get that though!

Tomorrows forecast for Finland - we are around where it is marked -2 temperature.

It all has a very loooonnnnnggg way to go though yet....until it looks like this! (Just how I love it!) This photo was taken in February and that is our friend Steve, who was visiting at the time!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Julbock / Olkipukki Christmas Straw Goat Decoration

Yes it is creeping up on us again! With the clocks having just gone back, the nights are rapidly drawing and its time to turn thoughts to CHRISTMAS!

The Olkipukki Yule Goat is a traditional scandinavian Christmas decoration. Measuring approximately 28cm tall, with red ribboning.

The Yule Goat is one of the oldest Scandinavian and northern European Yule traditions. As such it is now a customary decoration or gift in Scandinavian homes. The straw effigy is handmade out of braided straw and a few wheat ears. In Sweden it is known as the Julbock, in Norway it is the Julebukk, (both names translating as Yule Buck) and in Finland it is the Olkipukki - meaning Straw Buck.

So - just why a GOAT at Christmas time - you might ask? Well, there is a curious combination of Pagan and Christian traditions in the Nordic countries. Joulupukki, (the real Finnish name of HE - also known as Santa Claus or Father Christmas) - was and still is also represented by the Pagan Goat. In Finnish, the word Joulupukki, literally translates as 'Yule Buck' - but he is Father Christmas in bodily form these days.

It all stems from ancient Norse mythology, which tells of the legend of Thor/Odin/Ukko, (the various names of the God of Thunder) who rode across the wintery, Christmas skies. The goat was actually the steed of that ancient pagan god - yes, he employed Goats and NOT Reindeer! The thundering chariot was said to be drawn by just two goats, one called Tanngrisnir (translated as: one who has sparse teeth) and another called Tanngnjóstr (one who grinds his teeth) Also known as: Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder or Gnasher and Cracker! They would be magically brought to life every season of the dark.

During pagan celebrations of the season, someone - generally a young man - would dress in a goat skin and carry or wear a pretend goats head. During a festive party the figure would "die" in a pretend slaughter and then return to life - magically brought to life just like Thors two chariot drawing goats. Celebratory offerings were then made to the God of the dark time of the year to thank for his bringing the sun back across the sky. Christian authorities were naturally displeased with these pagan winter rituals. Nevertheless, the celebration of the goat and his unpredictable behaviour proved to be a popular and an element of the season that lasted for a very, very long time.

Scandinavian families would gather the harvest and save some of the wheat sheaves to create a goat effigy out of them, gently tying the wheat together with red ribbons. It would be left to dry completely for Yule time celebrations, at which time it would be burned as a sacrifice to Thor.

Another tradition of the Yule Goat in straw form, was the custom of going door to door, singing carols - similar to British carol singing. Carolers would receive a small treat - sweets, cakes etc. The goat was supposed to be a little ugly though - a little scary - just enough to 'demand' these gifts at the same time! Later there was a shift towards the goat becoming the giver of gifts - rather than the demander! Men of the family would dress up as the Yule Goat again - with good intent and if you were lucky enough to be visited by him, it was a sign of good luck for the coming year. Thor's blessings were yours.

Eventually though even this 'tradition' saw the goat replaced with the Swedish Jultomte, the Norwegian Julenisse and the Finnish Tonttu - all a kind of Christmas Elf or Gnome, that later morphed into the Santa Claus we know today. Curiously, the name ‘Nisse’ may have come from the word ‘Nicls’ or ‘Niclsen’, which is a Scandinavian version of the German name ‘Nicolaus’ or ‘Niclas’ aka St Nicholas or Father Christmas! How entertwined! By the end of the 18th century though, the tradition of the man sized goat had pretty much disappeared and the Yule goat had been reduced to a purely a decorative feature.

However, of late, from the 1930's onwards - there has been a strong revival of the Christmas Goats cause! Depictions of the Goat feature in many Christmas cards and wrapping paper. Neighbours will visit each other with a Goat or even dress as the Goat again.. and many Father Christmas figures are shown wearing fur. Most of these figures that are on sale however are wearing Reindeer fur..mainly because of the plethora of the creature in Lapland and the fact that they are so heavily tied into the regions culture that it makes sense to use that fur. Whatever, there is a growing remembrance of the pagan God of Thunder during Christmas! I am sure he is crashingly happy about that! Nowadays the Julbock/Olkipukki is purely decorative and often placed near gifts to protect them.

A note to point is that the word “Yule” also comes from the Norse word 'Jul' or 'Yul' - which meant 'wheel'. Odin is known in Norse by the title 'Jolnir' which means, 'The Jul One'. In Sweden they say 'God Jul!' for Merry Christmas, although here in Finland it is 'Hyvää Joulua!' The day itself is celebrated on Christmas Eve.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It's Local Election Day!

So, finally today came and I went off down to the main part of town to place my vote in the Local Elections!

My 'Bestist' Friend in the WHOLE of Finland, (Minna) came to pick me up and we drove to the council offices.

Sodankylä (the municipality county region of) is very large, (NO - it's huge) but the central administration of it is only in the very central part of Sodankylä (the small town). The council offices are located on Jäämerentie (Which translates as Arctic Ocean Road) and it's the main drag through the linear town.

Shown above... the Sodankylän Coat of Arms.
The local motto: Under the lucky stars!

I wasn't sure if photographs would be allowed..but they didn't seem to mind it, when asked. I am sure they thought I was a bit dotty.. but Minna explained it was for my blog.. (and hey she is a nutty English woman - so you will have to excuse her!) :D

The Council buildings..

I've been here loads of times for other reasons.. but never to vote.. so I just wanted to see how the Finns did it.. if there was much difference to the UK style.

There are quite a few decorations inside.. mainly wood carvings or stuffed forest animals. This wood carving celebrates the Olympics.

There was a reminder of the candidates list on the door. The top line is in Finnish and underneath it is written in Saami. There were candidates from five parties to vote for in the Sodankylän area... not all parties were represented here. I voted for the second largest party of the area - but that is not one of the top three of the country. One of the Union reps where Mark works, is running again for council..and whilst he is from the same party, I didn't vote for him as I've not met him and don't know him. Where as the lady that I voted for, I DO know personally and am happy to support.

You have to announce yourself, hand in your election invite and get checked off the list. They also check your driving licence or passport for ID. As I don't drive, it was my AWFUL passport photo that they had the pleasure of inspecting! I really don't like my passport photo.

Then I got given a folded piece of paper to take to the booth.

I had expected a printed out piece of paper with all the candidates names on. (Like I've had previously in the UK) but all I had to do was locate the number of my chosen candidate and write that instead! This was probably the only difference to a UK election.

At the last minute, I noticed another name on the candidates list that I recognised. Someone else I know personally.. but I didnt know too much about their party and had already made my decision on whom to vote for by then.

Then I gave my folded up paper to another lady, to stamp with the official electoral stamp. The stamp says in Finnish, 'Election stamp' and shows the Lion emblem from the Finnish Coat of Arms in the centre.

Here is Minna, getting her stamp done and casting her vote!
(And yes.. for those of you have that have seen Minna before in previous blogs - NO, you are not going crazy - YES, she HAS dyed her hair! She used to be blonde!)

This from the website

Election Day for the municipal elections is October 26. Permanent residents and most immigrants are eligible to vote for their local politicians. Local governments determine your health and social services, decide on funding for day care centres, schools and welfare programs, and map out zoning for new construction projects, services and public transportation.

The National Coalition Party leads in voter support for this year's municipal elections, according to a YLE poll taken this month. However the top three parties remain neck and neck.

A new opinion poll suggests an electoral defeat for the Centre Party in this month's local elections. The conservative National Coalition Party leads the field, with the SDP in second place. Support for the small right-of-centre True Finns party has increased the most.

A survey carried out for the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities indicates 73 percent of the Finnish electorate will vote in the upcoming municipal elections. Just over one in ten say they will not cast a vote.

So, it will be interesting to see what happens and the repercussions from the new council members. I am pleased that I took part and used my vote. The voting stops at 8pm today and so overnight the results will come in. If and when I find out the results.. I will let you know who won!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

It's Dexter's Birthday today!

Today is Dexter's 1st Birthday!

Half Husky/Half Samoyed he is brother to Fluffy.. another Half Samoyed. Share with us, some of the pictures of Dexter's FIRST year!

Also some pics from today.. he even had a candle to blow out! LOL!


Monday, October 13, 2008

Baby Moose.. but not in Lapland!

Although this is not a Moose from Lapland.. I just couldn't resist adding this to my blog! This article got sent to me by a friend of mine in Canada.

Lots of cute pictures! Someone called Jonathon went for a walk up Falls Creek (near Nelson BC) and found a baby moose!

It was in some distress in the creek. He got him out of the creek, tried to send him on his way, tried to find the mother. Eventually the baby moose stumbled back into the creek, was rescued again and followed Jonathon home. Jonathon lives in a very small cabin, so he took the moose to another neighbour (Andrea Smith), who took these photos. (Notice Jonathon's wet sweatshirt!)

The person who sent this original email said that they had never even seen moose in that area, so was bewildered that a recently born moose would be on its own, way up a mountainous creek.

Anyway, they took the moose, the next day, to Helen Jamieson in Blewett - just outside Nelson, who looks after wild animals. She put it in a pen with a fawn.Isn't the moose calf/deer with the fawn so cute!

A nice story.. with a nice ending.