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Thursday's papers: New Year tin termination, Christmas gifts for the poor, and sote solution

Thursday's newspapers include an EU ban for a lead-laden Finnish tradition, how to provide Christmas presents for the poor, and agreement on healthcare reform.

Joulukuusen alla lahjoja.
Christmas is coming. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Every New Year's Eve in Finland, people melt small horseshoe-shaped bits of tin before plunging them into a bucket of cold water. The shape each horseshoe forms when it sets is meant to provide clues as to how the next year will pan out, offering a nice way to speculate as another twelve months draws to a close.

Media is only now reporting, however, that the tin horseshoes commonly sold in Finland contain lead, and will soon be banned by the European Union. This is, therefore, the last New Year when this type of horseshoe will be sold in Finland, and Hannu Kiviranta of the Institute for Health and Welfare tells Ilta-Sanomat that tin-melters should dispose of the lead-filled waste responsibly.

The possible replacement suggested in the IS info box is beeswax, which melts at 60 degrees Celsius. The traditional tin melting, on the other hand, takes place at about 180 degrees.

Spreading Christmas cheer

It's almost Christmas, and Helsingin Sanomat takes a look at how one woman in eastern Helsinki is helping those less fortunate than herself. Pia Villgren decided two years ago to start collecting donations and sorting them into bags for low-income families so that they too could enjoy some Christmas spirit.

The project gathered pace, and this year she's planning to help some 45 families in the Herttoniemenranta district with seasonal goods, gift vouchers and small gifts. They apply for help via the Deaconess Institute, a local church nonprofit, and once approved as deserving recipients they get their help.

Villgren says demand has risen in recent years, with rising indebtedness a big concern and many families reporting a worsening financial situation. HS carries an info box including several charities doing similar work, including Save the Children, the Christmas spirit appeal and the Cancer Foundation.

Sote solution?

All the papers carry news of a significant change in the government's long-planned reform of health and social care. The Ministry of Health and Social affairs announced on Wednesday that it was abandoning plans to introduce patient vouchers for specialist care.

Those plans had been criticised for potentially removing a big income stream from Finland's larger, accident and emergency unit-hosting hospitals. Medical professionals had complained that the plan had endangered the emergency units by making their wide range of specialist expertise unviable to maintain.

Helsingin Sanomat reports that the deal resolves a long-running dispute within the government. The Centre Party had fretted that vouchers could damage specialist health care and see doctors leave the public sector for private practice, while the National Coalition was keen to see private firms get a larger chunk of the healthcare budget.

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