Pandemic-weary Finns hold on to holiday traditions

People across Finland are changing their Christmas plans but many customs still remain.

One in six said they were spending less on holiday gifts this year. Image: Petteri Bülow / Yle

This week healthcare officials and Uusimaa municipal leaders urged people to limit holiday gatherings to those in their immediate household.

That said, a recent poll conducted by Helsingin Sanomat found that the pandemic had altered more than a quarter of people's holiday plans. Within this group about half of respondents said they were skipping visits to family friends.

Cities in the capital region have cancelled New Year's fireworks displays, with officials calling on residents to ring in 2021 at home.

Pigging out

While the pandemic is impacting the way people celebrate, many longstanding traditions continue. Meat lobby Lihatiedotus said its poll found 75 percent of households planned to buy a Christmas ham. Finns consume some six to seven million kilos of the pink meat over the holidays.

Another yuletide staple, pandemic or not, is freshly salted fish. German discount grocer Lidl in 2018 reported that Finns buy around 2.5 times more of it in December than during any other month.

When it comes to drinks, sales of red wine usually double over the holidays, according to state alcohol monopoly retailer Alko.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas(tree)

People are also still wanting a tree of their own. Finnish Christmas tree association Joulupuuseura said it expects people to buy 1.4 million firs--most of which are cultivated. Last year Finland imported about 61,000 Christmas trees, mainly from Denmark and Poland, according to Finnish Customs.

Hyacinths are another festive favourite in Finland, with residents buying 2.5 million of the flowering plant, according to Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke).

Nordea bank said it expects people will spend nearly the same amount on holiday purchases this year as last, with Christmas budgets averaging around 531 euros per adult. Insurance company LähiTapiola meanwhile said its survey indicated holiday budgets to average around 470 euros, with single adults spending some 410 euros and families with children devoting 640 euros to yuletide purchases. One in six said they planned to rein in holiday shopping.