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Helsinki was clad in snow on November 30 in 2012. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

A look from the window in downtown Helsinki on Sunday afternoon revealed a pleasant surprise: snowflakes were falling down, collecting a thin crust over the cars parked in the street. The phenomenon, which could be considered a Christmas Miracle in southern Finland these days, caused some stir in social media. “It’s snowing! It’s snowing!” a friend wrote on Facebook. “I know my dog is looking forward to making it yellow.”

About 20 minutes later the snow showers had turned into rain. The crust was gone. No pissing in the snow for dogs. Maybe not even on the Christmas Eve.

When there is no snow in the heart of the city, the darkness at this period of time wraps everything in its blanket around four in the afternoon. But thanks to the extensive and strong street and Holiday lighting, it’s tolerable. However, in the scarcely and somewhat poorly lit streets in the countryside, the darkness is unbearable. Especially on Christmas Eve, if a sight from a candle-lit window while eating ham and seitan would be grass covered in dark mush.

It’s true that the Bing Crosby song of dreams and a white Christmas has become the theme song of the season for the Southies. But how much hope is there for snow?


A tractor is pulling the sleigh of Santa across the snowless Snellmaninkatu during the opening of the Christmas street on November 22 2015. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

According to the internet, tabloids and meteorologists, there may be hope . . . or . . . well, it depends whether the substance falling down from the sky on Christmas morning will be rain, sleet or snow; according to the weathermen and women, it’s likely that the temperature remains close to zero in southern Finland. In the northern parts of the country, and areas which are already covered in snow by Christmas, will likely be able to witness Santa riding the sleigh on the Eve. If everything else fails in the south, there are always cars and tractors . . .

But when wishing for a miracle, anything can happen. I vaguely remember once witnessing a bare grass yard turn plain white in the course of the Christmas feast.

On average, in southern and south-west Finland, snow has covered the ground every two Christmases from three. In the centre and inner parts of the country, four Christmases from five have been white. Northern Finland doesn’t count. They haven’t had to dream of a white Christmas. Almost never.

Let’s dig deeper. The Christmas-statistics reveal that Helsinki has celebrated Xmas in the glow of asphalt 33 times since 1911. In the past ten years, the Noëls of 2006, 2007 and 2008 were snowless. In 2006, a nationwide heat-plague ate all snow below the diagonal line from the Ostrobothian city of Kokkola to the south-eastern city of Kotka. Since the mid-19th century, the average temperature of Finland has risen over two degrees. The temperature has doubled compared with statistics globally. The winter months have warmed more than in the summer. “Decembers have warmed as much as five degrees,” said Ari Laaksonen, the head of the unit at the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

In general, if the globe warms by two degrees, the temperature in Finland will rise with about five to six degrees due to closer proximity to the circumpolar areas, and of course this is all related to the climate change. That’s why I raise my grey fedora to the Paris climate deal formed on Saturday, where the 195 nations around the world agreed to tackle the global warming by measures that hopefully will keep the rise of the worldwide temperature well below the magical number: two degrees of Celsius.

This, however, requires that the global leaders would be willing to follow the example of the likes of President Sauli Niinistö: “My carbon footprint reduction campaign began a few years ago when I had a geothermal heating system installed in our home, ” he said while conducting a climate pledge in November. “This cut our electricity consumption by about half. Since then we have switched to CO2-free electricity and are using more and more LED light bulbs.”

President Niinistö continued with his wise words in his speech at the Paris Climate Change Conference in the end of November: “We don’t have a planet B, this is the only one,” he reminded the world leaders as the final words of his speech.

Maybe we don’t have to dream of a white Christmas in the future, after all . . .


Tony Öhberg