Easter (pääsiäinen) is a big deal in Finland. Maybe it’s because it’s a major religious holiday for Finland’s 4.2 million Lutherans (yes, that’s nearly 80% of the population), but it also marks the first holiday of spring and a sort of precursor or warm up, as far as I can tell, to the major party that is Vappu (May Day). Regardless, I don’t really need an excuse to enjoy a four day weekend when the sun is shining at long last, and the Finns don’t seem to mind either.
The week of Easter, shops fill with the expected bunny/chick/chocolate kitsch, and at the same time flower shops and market stalls begin selling a lovely arrangement of palm leaves, pussy willows, and daffodils like the one you see here. Decorating the house for Easter seems to be a bit more prevalent here than in the United States, at least if you judge by the amount of Easter-themed home-decor I’ve seen around town this month.
Festivities began on Palm Sunday with a parade through town (from what I saw, it was primarily boy/girl scouts and a marching band) and the requisite church-goers walking around with palm leaves. Palm Sunday also brings Virpominen, the Finnish equivalent of America’s Halloween, when children dress as witches and goblins and go door to door hoping for candy. Instead of saying Trick or Treat, they offer a blessing and often wave or give out pussy willow branches, a sign of the coming spring and of rebirth. This is by no means something that all children do, and I managed to be out and about quite a bit in Helsinki on Sunday without noticing a single little witch or goblin, but I still think it’s fun. It looks like we’ll get the chance to reprise the Palm Sunday festivities tomorrow, as there is an Easter bonfire on one of the many islands around Helsinki and the children will dress up for that too.
Just like at home, Easter in Finland is full of Easter-related crafts at school. But unlike the US, in Finland the children plant Rye grass and watch it grow in the days leading up to Easter. Then the Easter bunny nestles eggs and treats into the grass instead of into plastic grass. This vaguely reminds me of something similar the kids did in the Waldorf preschool at home, and I’m all for gardening, so we gave this a go, albeit too late to have grass tall enough to hide eggs in by Easter. The tall grass in the background of this picture came from Lily’s school, where they clearly had more time to think about Easter activities than I did this month!
We’re also hoping to check out the zoo this weekend, which has an Easter theme throughout the holiday. I’m not sure whether the Easter Bunny makes an appearance at things like this like he does in malls across the US, or if there will be more witches and trolls. Either way, it will be fun to see the zoo without snow for the first time!
Unlike at home in Colorado, when crocuses make their appearance in February and the daffodils often bloom in time for St. Patrick’s Day, spring is just now arriving in Helsinki. There are bulbs planted everywhere, and not just tulips, crocuses & daffodils either. There are wood hyacinth, scilla, and snowdrops blooming in every little green nook in the city, it seems, and the Finns seem to have a good grasp of bulb layering (interplanting early bulbs with later-blooming bulbs so that the color evolves throughout the season), which pleases me greatly. In the purest of pagan terms, there is a rebirth happening here, and all I can say is it’s about time!!!
As far as the children can tell, Easter in Finland is exactly the same as in the United States, just with a bit more time off of school. We decorated Easter eggs, made some Easter Egg pinatas (more on those, including pictures, later), and I will be hiding eggs and candy all over the flat Saturday night, knowing that the kids will be up at dawn (which is damned early in Finland at this time of year) gobbling it up.
I didn’t really muster up the energy to make my own dye this year like I have in the past, but if you are so inclined, you can read Dye Easter Eggs Naturally – A DIY Tutorial from Crunchy Domestic Goddess and by all means consider using up that extra dye with a fun tie-dye or other project.