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Finn News: Party like a Finlander this New Year’s Eve

Christmas in Finland is traditionally spent quietly with family and friends. The days between Christmas Day and New Year's Eve are generally low key as the Finns are saving up their energy and resources for their New Year's Eve celebrations as this night is probably the biggest celebration party night of the year. And the Finns do celebrate New Year's Eve rather boisterously!

People in Helsinki gather at Senate Square, one of the central squares of the city, for the national New Year's Eve ceremony and celebration. The short and solemn ceremony — which includes speeches by the mayor, bishop, and other notable people — is followed by musical performances, the saying of three cheers for the fatherland, and the playing and singing of the Finnish national anthem. Even though it may be very cold, the Finns are very excited and happy to be there in person to enjoy the festivities which are also televised and shown in many households, bars and other establishments.

On New Year's Eve, some Finns host family and friends at their home, others meet at restaurants or nightclubs or attend one of the many New Year's Eve parties, and still others go to special gala dances, balls or concerts. But no matter the location of the party, food and drinks are an important of the celebration. The food offerings range from a great home-cooked meal to a buffet dinner with lots of delicious hot and cold dishes, desserts and snacks. Most people will also consume quite a few alcoholic drinks, which generally leads to the boisterous behavior!

Another important part of Finnish New Year's Eve festivities are the fireworks which are usually the highlight of the evening. Sold in stores between Christmas and New Year's Eve, fireworks can only be set off between 6 p.m. on New Year's Eve and 2 a.m. on New Year's morning. Most fireworks are generally set off starting close to midnight with the colorful fireworks lighting up the skies throughout Finland. The fireworks displays are set off by private citizens, clubs, companies, organizations and towns and are the grand finale to New Year's Eve celebrations.

Whether the fireworks are set off before or just after midnight, however, when the clock strikes midnight, Finns greet each other with hugs, kisses and cheers saying, "Hyvää uutta vuotta!" ("Happy New Year”) while they raise their drinks in toasts to the new year ahead. In many cases, more snacks, drinks and conversations are enjoyed after their midnight toasts and fireworks.

Even more important than the New Year's tradition of making resolutions for the upcoming year (which some Finns may make but won't carry through), the big Finnish tradition is the casting of tin to read fortunes. Each Finn gets a miniature tin horseshoe which is melted down and then poured into a bucket of cold water. The molten tin quickly re-solidifies into weird shapes which are then interpreted to predict that person's future health, wealth, or happiness. However, if the re-solidified tin breaks into pieces, it is really considered a sign of bad luck!

After a night of celebrating, many Finns like to sleep late on New Year's Day, just like many Americans do, and many will wake up needing a pain reliever and coffee. But there are some Finns who get up early to spend the first day of the new year outside either skiing, hiking or just enjoying time with family and friends outdoors. But whether they stay inside nursing headaches or head outside to enjoy the winter weather, Finns around the country consume record amounts of coffee on New Year's Day.

On New Year's Day, many Finns will also listen to the Finnish president's New Year's speech, as well as special televised concerts or old Finnish movies. In addition, Finns all over the country will spend New Year's afternoon and evening enjoying more good food, such as the traditional Finnish fish dishes or meat stew. Some Finns will also want to celebrate the start of the New Year with even more parties. Finns do like to party!

In the northland of Minnesota, here are some Finn things that you can do to celebrate the New Year during this first month or so of 2017.

The Sami Cultural Center, 4915 East Superior St., Suite 205, Duluth, will sponsor two workshops during the next two months.  At the first workshop, you can make your own traditional Sami luhkka (poncho) on Saturday, Jan. 21 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The luhkka, a popular winterwear in Sápmi for adults and children, will be made using a traditional unisex pattern. The workshop is limited to 10 people, and the fee is $7 (plus materials purchased before the class). You are welcome to bring your own sewing machine. In addition, although hot drinks and snacks will be provided, everyone is asked to bring a bag lunch. To register and obtain a materials list, call 218-525-4757 or email samicenterna@gmail.com.

The second workshop, held on Saturday, Feb. 18 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., will teach you how to create your own beautiful Sami-inspired bracelet using traditional Sami techniques with materials imported from Sweden (silver thread, reindeer leather, and shed reindeer antler buttons). The class fee is $20 in addition to a $45 materials fee paid to the instructor. Additional kits will be available for $45 each so you can make more bracelets at home. This workshop is also limited to 10 people and will be taught by Cindy Ericksmoen.  Again, hot drinks and snacks will be provided, but please bring a bag lunch. For more information or to register, call 218-340-6117 or email cynther301@yahoo.com.

You can also register to make these same Sami-inspired bracelets at one of the Yarn Harbor workshops, too. Each workshop will be held at Yarn Harbor, 4629 East Superior St. in Duluth, for a fee of $30 (payable to Yarn Harbor). The fee for each bracelet kit is $45 (payable to the instructor) and additional kits will again be available for the same price. The times/dates for the Yarn Harbor classes are 12:30-5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 4. Hot chocolate will be provided but bring your own lunch. If time permits, the workshops will include a bonus earring session! For more information or to register for one of the workshops, contact Yarn Harbor at 218-724-6432.

Looking ahead.... There are a couple of groups in the Duluth and Iron Range areas that will be meeting to brainstorm ideas and work on plans for activities and events at which Finns and friends can celebrate and commemorate Finland's 100th Anniversary of Independence during the 2017 year. Watch for upcoming information to find out how you can join the fun at these events!

Until then, raise your glass of beverage in a toast at keskiyö (midnight) on New Year's Eve with friends and family in Finland. But you have to remember, since Finland is eight hours ahead of us, in order to raise your "midnight toast" with Finns in Finland, you will have to raise it at 4 p.m. Central Time. A good excuse to start your New Year's Eve party early!

Onnellista Uutta Vuotta!! (Happy New Year!!)

May you have a peaceful, wonderful, and blessed New Year!

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