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Santa Claus is stepping into the sleigh at the opening of Christmas Street in Helsinki on November 26, 2017. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Christmas is coming the goose is getting fat, please put a penny in the old man’s hat, and on Sunday Santa Claus came to town. He arrived in Senate Square, in the center of Helsinki on board a historic tram because snow in the south of Finland cannot be guaranteed at this time of year. Many of the fantastic Christmas lights decorating the center of Helsinki had been on for a couple of weeks but in Aleksanterinkatu (the Finnish equivalent of Oxford Street in London) it remained dull.

The Groke from Moomins joined the parade. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

On a normal Sunday afternoon, Helsinki does not often feel crowded. However, even though the weather was dull and gloomy the Christmas parade pulled in thousands of folks to watch the songs and celebrations in Senate Square with the big white Lutheran Cathedral as a backdrop. Performances from Eila the rapping grandma, the choir leading traditional hymns and other Christmas songs until Santa came to wish us all a very Happy Christmas and turned on the lights at Aleksanterinkatu to a great cheer. Then the parade processed along Aleksanterinkatu, Mannerheimintie and returned down north Esplanade. Quite a spectacle, of Santa’s helpers and a magnificent large float carrying the Finnish National Opera Ballet performing Moomins. Together with the festive shop windows, it was a delight for young and old.

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Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Celebrating the birth of Christ each year in Finland is also a time for giving and many charities have fundraising events too.  Last Saturday it was possible to buy British mince pies and other traditional goodies at the Anglican Church Bazaar.   At the parade in Senate Square, there were charity stalls selling Finnish treats such as mulled wine (glögi), pastries (tähtitorttu) and Christmas porridge (joulupuuro).  Only in Finland could porridge become a festive treat!

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With less than seven hours between sunrise and sunset each day, as much sparkle and twinkle helps keep away the winter blues until after Christmas. Note the proliferation of homes decorated with lights, hurrah for low energy LEDs!