Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas time in Turku

The Christmas season lasts until the 13th of January here, so I'm really not late at all in posting about Christmas!

The most notable thing that happens in Turku specifically is the declaration of Christmas Peace.  Since medieval times, the mayor of the city has read a proclamation from the balcony of the old town hall on Christmas Eve at noon, establishing a situational peace time until January 13, Knut's Day.  Even today, fines and penalties for crimes committed during this time are much harsher.  Originally this tradition was not merely a ceremony but part of actual municipal lawmaking, and not unique to Turku.  Today in Finland the tradition still continues only in this town as the country's official peace declaration.  Most people watch it on TV or the internet or listen on the radio, but I really wanted to see this event in person.

It was bitterly cold, -26C, but I wore some of the warmest clothing I had because I knew I'd be standing around outside for at least a half hour.  I'd brought my camera and hoped I would get a good spot since I knew that normally thousands of people would attend.  The cold must have kept a lot of people indoors, because I got a good spot right at the front (though by the time we left, there was a huge crowd that had closed down the main street).  My camera still managed to work in such low temperatures, and the photos can be seen here.  Almost everyone was red-faced from the cold and jumping around in place to stay warm, but we stuck it out until it was over and had a lovely warm bus ride back home.

Also included in that photo set are some photos of the snow around here; it's by far the most snow I've ever seen in one place, and we'll certainly get more before this all melts in April or so.  It's impressive how well the snow is handled here - moving from a place where a couple centimeters of the stuff is enough to shut down schools and stores, it's nice to see life continue as usual no matter how much snow falls.  Helsinki airport was recently all over the news for its smart and efficient handling of snow and ice, only closing for a half hour last year!

I hope all you readers had a great holiday and enjoy the new year.  I'm going to Helsinki to see a Finntroll gig, so that's a good proper celebration in my book!

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