The most important gift that many Finnish families buy this holiday season might just be for a young person they don't even know. The Joulupuu gift collection campaign helped collect over 54,000 gifts for needy children last year, and this year the Central Park Junior Chamber-run charity expects to do even better, as interest in their campaign is picking up speed.
The charity has placed Christmas tree collection spots in several locations throughout the metropolitan area. Instead of decorations, the trees have paper slips on the branches. The slips contain the details of someone under 18 who would otherwise perhaps go without presents this holiday: they read 'Girl 2-4 doll' or 'Boy 8-10 Lego'. Interested parties can take a slip, buy the appropriate gift, affix the slip to it, and return it to the collection spot.
Joulupuu started its campaign to help out the over 10,000 underage residents of the Helsinki area that are currently receiving child protection services in some form or another. This includes children in shelters, foster families and those in families suffering from substance abuse or financial difficulties.
"I think that people take part gladly, because they can give a gift that they have really thought about and chosen carefully. The presents are also something that the children have really wished for or need," says Joulupuu's project manager Iina Pullkinen.
Traditional charities still going strong
The increasing support for the Joulupuu charity shows that more and more of Finland's residents are choosing to purchase physical gifts in lieu of contributing cash donations. But even charities that collect money at Christmas are reporting surges.
The Salvation Army has collected money for Finnish charity with its Christmas kettle campaign since 1906.
"Even though there are now more charity campaigns than ever, the traditional Christmas kettle campaign has stayed strong. Last year we collected 830,000 euros. This year we expect to bring in over a million euros," says Finland's Salvation Army's representative Anne Fredriksson.
Salvation Army donations are distributed to the needy in the same area where they are collected. Among other things, the funds helped over 12,000 families in Finland last year to buy food for the holidays.
Over half a million Finns donate money to charity organizations regularly, but on the country level, Finland ranks far below the per capita giving rates in the UK and Germany, for example. In these countries, there is a much longer tradition of charitable donations, especially during the holidays.