Thursday, January 20, 2011

New Years in Finland

We celebrated New Years Eve with several of my Finnish cousins who live nearby. Eight adults, ten kids and one frisky dog celebrated New Years Eve at the home of my cousin Taina and her family.

There were video and board games for the kids, and we all enjoyed yummy food, fortune telling and at midnight, fireworks outside.

Maria, Hanna-Mari and Maikki

Elsa, Silja and Topi

Elsa, Riikka and Silja

Brooke and Pepe.
In this photo, you can see how effective the Finnish reflectors are. They are worn outside during the dark winter months so that drivers can see pedestrians.

Fortune Telling:
Traditionally done at midnight, the fortune telling involves melting small horseshoes, which are melted in a special ladle.

Saara is nearby as Elli melts her horseshoe.

Analeise gets ready to try the tradition.

Tero and Brooke watch Seppo melt a horseshoe as Silja and Elli wait nearby.

Maikki melts her horseshoe, with mom, Hanna-Mari nearby. The molten metal is dropped into a bucket of cold water, and the shadow of the resultant shape is studied for hints of what is to come during the next year.

Saara fishing out her fortune.

Brooke's fortune for 2011.

Each person who wants their fortune told needs to melt a separate horseshoe, and some say you need to keep the little mess of metal safe until the next year, in order to secure your fortune. The horseshoes used to be made of tin, but now they are made of lead.

At our party, my cousin Taina's husband, Seppo discovered his unknown skill of creatively deciphering our fortunes.

Seppo tells Elsa's fortune, as Topi watches.

Some online reading told me that there is a lot of variety in the symbols. For example, some say that broken pieces mean bad luck, while others claim it means more money will be coming that year. A heart shape implies love to come, a boat shape can mean travel, etc. I read that long ago, the best story teller at the gathering would be the one to tell the fortunes.

My fortune for 2011.

Not everyone in Finland participates in this tradition, but it is common enough that the ladle and horseshoes are set out on many shop counters before the new year. My cousins said they'd only done it a few times in their lives, and not in many years. I've read that the tradition may have started in Greece and spread to many different places before arriving in Finland and that all manner of things have been melted (bees wax, other types of metal, etc.).

Midnight and the New Year:

A very common way of bringing in the new year here is to set off fireworks at midnight. Earlier in the evening, some of us went outside and used sparklers. At midnight, small fireworks and sparklers drew us outside while neighbors all around Taina and Seppo's house celebrated likewise (some with larger fireworks that made me happy for all the snow covering the surrounding wooden houses). We laughed and cheered. Then it was time to say our goodbyes and goodnights. My cousins Pasi and Tero and their families left, and as Taina and Seppo had invited us to stay the night, we happily found our spots and went to sleep for the first time in 2011.

Thank you to Taina and Seppo for hosting! We were very happy to spend the and to the Kuusijärvi and Välisalo families for helping our Finnish New Years be memorable.

Bonus Photos:
Taina made sure we were well fed throughout the night - tasty Finnish cheese!

Seppo, Fortune Teller Extraordinaire.

Pasi and Bryan, at the Jokinen's lovely (ihana) table.

Ilona, who went to sleep before the fireworks. Midnight is pretty late for a one-year-old.

Pepe, in a less frisky moment.


  1. Some corrections:
    Family's were Välisalo's and Kuusijärvi's.
    Ok, Ä's and Ö's may be easier to type with my keyboard :)
    Välisalo's kids are Maikki and Topi.
    And I'm sorry for getting mad at the growling dog and Taina who was just defending him.
    (This commenting is made quite difficult, BTW. No "anonymous" option...)
    BR, Seppo

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