The oldest and largest outdoor Christmas market in the capital area, the Helsinki Christmas Market (Tuomaan Markkinat), has been chosen as one of the best Christmas markets in Europe. Located in the historic Senate Square with colorful wooden huts, the market is surrounded by four beautiful buildings: the Helsinki Cathedral, the Government Palace, the National Library of Finland, and the University of Helsinki's main building. From Christmas delicacies to traditional carousel, Christmas karaoke and Santa Claus, Helsinki Christmas Market is a fairytale festivity.
The origin of the market’s name
The Christmas Market is called Tuomaan Markkinat (St. Thomas Market), If you wonder why here is a brief description on the history of this tradition. In the Finnish tradition, the Christmas period has been usually considered to begin on Thomas’ saint day on December 21 (which is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year) and to continue until St. Knut's Day on January 13 (Nuutti’s name-day). The Christmas Market used to be set on Thomas’ saint day, but nowadays it starts before.
The Finnish tradition on the Christmas period is reflected in these rhymes; Hyvä Tuomas joulun tuopi, paha Nuutti pois sen viepi, which means ‘’Good Thomas brings the Christmas and evil Nuutti takes it away’’. In old times, children used to play and act as Nuutti-pukki, and going from door to door singing and hoping for candy or sweet treats. This is similar to the Easter tradition and reminds us about the Funny Easter Witches singing and going around the neighbourhood.
"Hyvä Tuomas joulun tuopi, paha Nuutti pois sen viepi" means ‘’Good Thomas brings the Christmas and evil Nuutti takes it away’’
Helsinki Christmas Market among the best in Europe
According to The Guardian, Evening Standard, and Conde Nast Traveler, Helsinki Christmas Market has been listed among the best Christmas markets in Europe. The Market is vibrant with its lights and decorations: the wooden huts and various handicrafts, hand-made and Finnish design gifts, flavorful Christmas delicacies, and the traditional Carousel are filled with vivid colors. In addition to all these colors, usually foreigners would like to imagine and add the fairytale white snow to the Finnish Christmas Market. Everybody hopes that the snow will arrive to create a ‘white’ Christmas.
A traditional carousel ride for kids
In the middle of the Helsinki Christmas Market, the beautiful and traditional carousel attracts the most attention, especially of children. All people including adults and kids can take a ride on wooden horses, usually a small box for donations is placed at the entrance of the carousel.
The Christmas Sauna
Christmas sauna is an old Finnish tradition, and meant to be removing impurities from both body and spirit. For visitors it is a special and unique experience to try the Finnish Christmas wood-heated sauna in the middle of the Senate Square. The sauna was provided by the previous organizers of the market for a few years. The sauna hut contained a bar serving various Finnish Christmas drinks such as beer and wine, and some snacks such as traditional ginger cookies and cakes. Visitors could use the towels, and also could step out to cool off and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of the market. Please note that the sauna might not run every year. However, if the sauna in the market is not open this year, you could enjoy another public sauna experience. Helsinki offers a wide range of public saunas including the old and traditional wood-heated ones such as Kotiharjun Sauna, Sauna Arla, and more modern ones such as Löyly and Allas Sea Pool.
A sustainable market
Climate, nature and the environment are among the main issues of our time, and they have made their way to the Christmas Festivities. The Helsinki Christmas Market is called itself a Traditional and Responsible Market, and this year it has dedicated many efforts to develop the market's sustainability and making good choices in terms of charity, recycling, reducing food waste, and logistics as well as providing the visitors with many ecological gift options.
The food which is provided at the Market is also environmentally friendly, it basically consists of plant-based (kasvis) meals from the local producers and served on biodegradable dishes. The purpose of the whole event is to fight against food waste, to highlight recycling and ecological values, to support small local and regional producers, to promote responsible Christmas gifts, and therefore to offer sustainable alternatives to mass-produced gifts and decorative objects.
The Finnish Red Cross container is also present in the market, and offers a variety of recycled items as gifts for visitors to buy. The profit will be for the use of the Finnish Red Cross disaster fund. The vendors could also donate their surplus goods to the Hursti charity for the benefit of local people in need. The customers of the Helsinki Christmas Market could also buy gifts which will be given to low-income families.
The Helsinki Christmas Market on Senate Square (Aleksanterinkatu) will be open this 2019 from December 6-22, Tue-Fri 11-20:00, Sat-Sun 10-20:00 (Monday is closed). Santa Claus is present on weekends. Admission to the market is free.
Official website: Helsinki Christmas Market.
Photos for Foreigners in Finland by Juha Roisko