Finnish Christmas: joulu

December 24-25

We have had more difficulty than usual in adjusting our sleep schedules. I had wondered if the winter darkness in Finland might make things easier, but I think this has been just about the worst trip we have ever made for getting our schedules turned around. E. and I have both been consistently waking up around 3 in the morning, unable to sleep any more no matter how tired we may be. After getting up and hanging around for a few hours, we have generally been able to go back to sleep sometime after 8 and drag ourselves up again in the afternoon, but it has not been easy on us.

In any case, the day after we arrived was Christmas Eve, the time when the holiday is traditionally celebrated in Finland. Ville arrived at the apartment in the afternoon and we got up to see him. He hung around for the rest of the day and we enjoyed his company very much. Of all E.’s family, I’ve always found him the most difficult to understand, partly because he tends to use a lot of unfamiliar slang and partly because his voice seems to be pitched at a frequency that my ears just don’t hear very well. I’m glad to say that I had a much easier time understanding him now than ever before. On the whole, my understanding of Finnish has gotten good enough now that although I don’t understand everything I am rarely lost in the conversation. I can’t always form a sensible response, but it is a pleasure to understand the conversation going on around me.

Leena and her Tiina (it can be terribly confusing having multiple Tiinas in the extended family) came for a visit in the evening and we all sat down to Christmas dinner together. There was plenty of talk and much laughter. We could not have asked for a better Christmas Eve in Finland.

That night was another difficult one for E. and me. We got very little sleep at night and I was not up and about again during the day until after 4– I missed the daylight entirely!

That day Olli and his Tiina came to visit, bringing Aino and Matias, our niece and nephew, along with them. Ville, clearly a favorite uncle, came to visit as well. Aino is now almost 4 and Matias just turned 2. When last we saw them, Aino was still getting used to talking and Matias was not yet crawling. Now Aino is chattering away (though even her parents don’t always understand what she is trying to say) and Matias is up and about and staring to babble, with actual words occasionally coming out.

The niece playing with the water toy we brought her for Christmas. She is so full of energy that this is about as good as it gets trying to take a non-posed picture of her

Aino was a little shy at fist around us unfamiliar people, but by the end of the evening she was just as cheerfully energetic as I remember. Matias is clearly very much in the wake of his older sister: what she has he wants, and what she does he copies. I can remember being a younger brother and feeling the same way about my older sister. It certainly looks like Aino and Matias have a good relationship– lots of playing together, hardly any fighting or struggling– and we can hope that it continues. I have certainly been very glad to have had such a good friendship with my sister for so many years.

The nephew, on the other hand, knows how to relax

Aino is without doubt the sunniest and most cheerful child I have ever known. I hope with all my heart that those qualities will stay with her as she gets older. About Matias it is harder to say, but if anything he seems like a serious child, quite content on his own and capable of great concentration when not following Aino’s lead in more rambunctious games.

At the end of the evening, as Olli and Tiina and company were getting ready to leave, Aino invited the two of us to come and play with her tomorrow, which we plan on doing.

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2 Responses to “Finnish Christmas: joulu”

  1. KHJ Says:

    I love the blurred-motion picture of Aino with her new toy. I think you mentioned the water toy before, and Dan and I were wondering, what kind of “water toy”? I can tell from the picture that it’s not a squirt gun, and it doesn’t look much like a tub toy, either. Is it a toy with water in it? What is it and how does it work?

    • heatherhouse Says:

      They’re just a couple of foam kickboards. One looks like a turtle, the other like a crocodile. Sorry, I forgot I hadn’t said what they were before. They both seemed very happy and wanted to play with their new toys right away.

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