Saturday, November 29, 2008

Its OFFICIALLY the Christmas season in Sodankylä

On friday night, the 28th November, it was the Christmas parade and official opening of Christmas..or in Finnish.. Joulun avajaiset!

Now, I have been here for the past five Christmas' BUT this was the first time I went to it. Why? LOL....because I didn't know it ever happened before! I first found out about it on the youtube website this summer. How ironic is that? I had to find out on the internet about something that happens down the road!

The trouble with event advertising here, is that a) the majority is in Finnish and b) it is VERY limited. It is kept on the whole, to either a local newspaper called the Sompio, that comes out twice weekly - subscription only - OR the sodankylä council website. Unless you know about both, you don't really know of these things so easily. Then of course you need the Finnish to understand it! LOL... Now that my Finnish is improved and my understanding of the area is better also, I can actually find out about more things going on locally. Which is great.

One would think that other people would tell me, but in the beginning we didn't know that many international people (that has only grown of late since our Finnish language course and more nationalities coming here) You see, most Finns don't have a habit of telling you anything, unless they are asked outright. It's a curious habit.. even real basic things...unless you ASK.. they won't say! I've had this confirmed by some international thinking Finns.. so it's not just me imagining it apparently.

Anyway, I found the event listed on the Sodankylä events website and let my non Finnish friends know. I jumped in the car with my english friend Sally and her baby - which saved me from a very snowy walk! It's been REALLY snowy the last few days. In the car was another lady that I'd not met before - she is from India of all places! She is here for a year with her husband and arrived in October. Despite the lift, I had my thermal top and leggings on, jeans, a jumper, a fleece waistcoat, my coat, a hat, scarf, two pairs of gloves and two pairs of socks on inside my boots! :D I might have looked bundled up.. but I wasn't cold... and I was NOT hot either! Just right. :D

There are now a lot of mini christmas trees on the light-posts, all with simple white lights on..and lots of snow! The main tree is on the roundabout at the centre of town. It was quite odd to see so many people together on the streets of Sodankylä.. although naturally, it wasn't as busy as would be seen at other Christmas events worldwide.

I called my Indonesian friend Amel, in case she was around in the crowds ..only to find out that she had forgotten about it. By the time she got out and met me, the parade had already gone by.. but then.. it was INCREDIBLY short! LOL.. and to our amazement there was no 'Joulupukki'! (Father Christmas) No reindeer, no sleigh, no Santa... WHAT?? We couldn't believe it! Sally said last year that Santa had made it...very strange - where WAS he?

Sorry that these pics are dark.. my camera is not so good in the dark!

Sally with her baby under wraps and Purnima

The parade .. walked from one end of town to the other, with a police van in front.

There were about eight fur clad figures, dressed as bears, polar bears, snow queen etc..

Then there were two distinct groups of children.. dressed as 'Tonttu' (Elves) one group very young, the other around ten years or so.

Then there were Saami ladies. Some kicking their Potkukelkka's (kicksled)

... and THAT was it! :D In my birth hometown of Bournemouth, in the UK...there are lots of floats, lights, Santa even Reindeer! LOL.. Again..quite ironic!

This is a potkukelkka! You can slide on the ice and snow with it and have a child or shopping on the front seat.

Sally and Purnima went on ahead and I held back for Amel. Then we walked on to the congregation area.. behind the tourism offices and the Alariesto Museum-Gallery 'Museo-Galleria Alarieston'. There was held, the much better part of the event.. where all those in the parade would dance for the opening of Christmas!

The bears were still around... the Polar bear was great! I love bears! :D

There were several dances by the groups and inbetween was a short interval where a bear and a person would communicate introducing the 'story'...

The cute little elves danced to the Finnish version of Rudolph the red nosed reindeer - Petteri Punakuono (which actually translates just as Rudolf Red Nose) and a Finnish version of Jingle Bell Rock! Considering the youngest looked only about three or four.. they were really brilliant!

The Saami girls were lovely..and so joyful when they were dancing. They were having great fun! It started quite slow, to the beat of a noitarumpu drum..then sped up in pace. Remember they are dancing on snow.. with lots of snow falling! Quite a feat! Just as well they are wearing their reindeer fur, curl toed boots!

These three happily posed for me. I think it's great just how proud they are of their national identity and their dress. My son, Jake.. who seems to know everyone... says their names are Kaija, Johanna and Suvi - I hope I have that right. Nice girls...Lovely photo!

Here is Amel. She has her own blog too.. which you can find in my links. It's a totally different read to mine. She is a lovely, sweet person and this shows in the way she writes. She also has links to learning Finnish. She was an english translator in Indonesia.. and has taken to Finnish like a duck to water! Really clever! She has helped me a lot with mine! Thanks Amel! (Hope you had a nice 30th Birthday on Saturday!)

And FINALLY there WAS Joulupukki.. after the music and dancing ended..there he was - sat on another Potkukelkka! :D

There was also free Glöggi (mulled wine) although I expect it was the non alcoholic kind at a family event.. and piparkakut (Ginger biscuits) but we came on home then.... It was a nice event and I will probably go again next year.. NOW it feels like Christmas is starting! Hooray!

"Happy Snowy Christmas everyone!"

Here are links to youtube to see videos of the event too! Mine are the first three.. a bit dark again.. but you get the idea.
And this one that Amel did...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Beautiful Sodankylä and its wintery coat!

Its been a beautiful week WEATHER wise in Sodankylä - but not so much health wise...with the family struggling with coughs and cold-flu symptoms! It's the season for it!

This week I had so many things planned to blog about and yet none came to better late than never.. here is my run down! It's a bit long - mainly pics and I have more to come - but they will be on another blog!

I began my week with a visit from an Owl. Now, I've never seen a real Owl in the wild before.. I've heard them and also seen them in Bird this was a bit of a shock - especially considering that I was upstairs in my bedroom at the time and it was daytime! It was around 1.30pm!

There on the branch of the tree right outside my window was this cheeky little chappy. I first of all saw him arrive and thought he was a big sparrow...silly me.. but he was REALLY twee! He was all of 15cm (6"). It wasn't until he moved his head in an owl like fashion that I thought OMG it's a baby owl! He sat there a few minutes...enough time for me to call one of my sons to witness him too.. but unfortunately I didn't have a camera to hand.. so no photo of him. However, this is another image - that I found online to show you the type of owl I mean!

I am saying it's a he, because I later Googled the bird and discovered it was a Pygmy Owl.. (apparently active daytime and not during night) and that males are smallest, the females are around 20cm (8") and he was nowhere near that size. He was SO cute!

Here are a couple of links to Pygmy Owls:

So, that makes Waxwings, Woodpeckers and Owls that I have now seen close well as lots of Bullfinches! They are all adorable birds. I am also pretty sure that I saw an eagle once, a couple of years back.. but there was no one else with me - so I might have been mistaken. It's lovely to have so much nature! What with red squirrels, hares, reindeer etc..

Here are images from downtown Sodankylä, earlier this week. It was a glorious day on Monday. The sky was a beautiful blue and the air (as it has been all week) was crisp and fresh! Sodankylä town centre is linear, running more or less south to north. As you can see.. there were not many people about! :D

From the far end of town..looking back to the centre...

One of the FOUR garages in town.. surprisingly several of them in a small area!

An old fashioned wooden house, refurbished to a dresswear shop.

Car park infront one of the supermarkets and also just by the Post Office.

Tip: If you want to see more of Sodankylä, enter the town name into youtube. There are several videos of drive throughs listed there. It seems quite a long drive through..but what you see is pretty much all there is!

I've actually been delighted that the snow hasn't disappeared on us - so no ice! This is the first year in the four that we have lived here that there hasn't been several inches of thick ice everywhere for a few weeks! BRILLIANT. There were a few skiddy days on the roads where it was 'difficult' on the roads and pathways.. but that is nothing really, not compared to how the past four Octobers have been here! (Remember that my first year here, I slipped and broke my elbow on that ice!)

We were down in town because Mark had to get a "Lääkärintodistus" (a doctors sick note) from the local hospital to be off sick from work. Having spent a few hours in there waiting for that.. all he wanted to do was goooooooo home and curl up in a ball.. but LOL.. I still made him stop the car, so I could just jump out to take pics! Rotten me...but it was just SO lovely AND of course, the light is disappearing rapidly, so light like this will be limited soon - to catch really good pics. It probably won't be bright like this again until February.

Heading home towards Kitinen River Bridge - and the sign for Tanhua, Savukoski

To the right side of the river

Looking to the left side over the bridge

The Kitinen river is frozen beautifully!

The temperature has been dropping to -17c on some nights.. so it's COOL! It's one of the things I like about living here.. the meteorological conditions! It's so nice to get definite seasons! :D

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Pyhäinpäivää ( Holy Day/All Saint's Day/Day of the Dead )

On Saturday we went to the two cemeteries in Sodankylä.. the one for the human community that is set around the Old and the New Church (see July Blog) and the one for pets.

As mentioned in my last blog, Saturday was Pyhäinpäivää or Holy Day/All Saint's Day/Day of the Dead.

It's the main day of the year when folk that are passed over are remembered and a candle is either lit for them at home, or placed on their grave.

In town, we visited the grave of one of Jake's late friends, Matti, who died a couple of years ago, aged just 13 years old. He was a lovely lad, really cute and was instrumental in Jake intergrating into the local community as well and as quickly as he did. Matti was Jake's best friend and he is sorely missed. He died from a very rare form of skin cancer.

We placed an angel candle there on which I had written in Finnish, Jake and family remember...

After we visited his grave, I tried to take a few photographs of the cemetery for you to see just how many candles there were and the beauty of it. Still, they all fall short of the real view.. very hard in such darkness!

I then wandered up further into the cemetery, which I haven't really done before, but I found it interesting looking at all the graves, the various types, the names etc. Sooooo many unpronouncable names for me! My son, Jake found one that sounded like Looly Laulee Lylaa....or something like that. A pretty name, but a real tongue twister as so many Finnish names can be to non Finns. Lovely to see so many remembered.

In Finland, as you can see..most headstones are black not white. I guess that has something to do with visibility in the snow.. I don't know for certain.. but in the UK, it's more the norm for a gravestone to be white. There were also a lot of family plots, which was nice to see.. really wide graves. Not so many angelic statues/headstones like there are in the older UK cemeteries though.

Finally, I found one place where many memory candles were left en masse. I have yet to find out what that was for.. but it was signposted Muistoristi which means Memorial Cross, so I am presuming it relates to those fallen in or through war.

Then we travelled back towards and then past our home, up to the pet cemetery, which is tucked in the middle of nowhere, a really quiet place.

The new shelter over the newly dug graves, (ready for any burials that are required through the white months) was up and in place. Quite a few orbs appeared in this image as you can see.. quite a cluster! :D I like to think it is my furry friends coming to say hello!

This is situated very close to our pets grave as you can see in the photo.

We laid our candle there too - on which I had written our pets names; Arnie, Smokie and George, we thought our thoughts and then made our way home.

R.I.P. sweetly...