Santa or Joulupukki


(A straw moble or “himmeli” – scanned from a clipping in my files, from an old Finnish magazine possibly Kotiliesi)

It’s now five nights to Christmas Eve and my thoughts are dancing around this rather magical time. I’m really enjoying reading Christmas themed sites and blogs, even looking back at my own of a year ago, such as the one about my favourite things and winter lights. Maybe being a bit childish helps me to recapture happy memories and puts me into the Christmas mood, so call me sentimental, I don’t mind!

Anni at Mayday 34°35’S 150°36’E* writes about where Santa really lives: Everybody knows Santa does not live on the North Pole, he lives in Finland at Korvatunturi mountain. That’s in Finnish Lapland, and it’s an enjoyable site to visit (in English and Finnish), especially if you have young children with whom to share the activities. The illustrations and stories are charming. I love the straw mobile or “himmeli”, a traditional Finnish decoration made of dried straw, an example of one style shown above.

Anni’s post received some lively comments, including Anni’s own delightful response:

I should have made this perfectly clear from the beginning. The Santa – who is not called Santa but Joulupukki (Christmas Goat, originally a very pagan creature complete with a beard and horns) – visits Finns in person, interrogates the children about their end-of-school-term marks and whether or not they have been good or bad. And if they have been good and if they sing him a special Joulupukki song, they’ll get the presents. Otherwise not. The rest of the year he sends his spies, elves, around to check and report about children’s behaviour. It is a great thing for the parents, they are able to refer to the elves’ and Joulupukki’s authority in problem situations by warning that, come Christmas, they won’t get presents, only bare twigs from a tree (for beating the bad, you see). This, in my opinion, is the reason for Finnish children’s good literacy and numeracy skills in all international surveys.

UPDATE December 16, 2013: * Anni’s blog is no longer online, sadly. The Korvatunturi site has since been updated and redesigned dramatically. The ‘himmeli’ link is no longer there.

December 19, 2005 in Culture, Finland, Estonia & Finno-Ugric, Folk Legends & Myths by Marja-Leena