One of the most important parts of the Christmas celebration is food. The candles, tree and presents are great, but in essence Christmas is a festive family dinner. In this post I will write a little about the Finnish Christmas dinner table, but since I have never cooked the food myself I decided to link to recipes rather than include them in the post. Stealing recipes and posting them here just seems dishonest.

Christmas dinnerIn Finland the main dish at the dinner table is the Christmas ham, which is covered in breadcrumbs and mustard and baked in the oven for several hours. My mother used to bake it over-night on a very low heat. There is nothing better than waking up on the morning of Christmas Eve and to have a small first taste of the ham. In addition to the ham we eat several types of casserole. I am an extremely picky eater and never liked any of them, but they are an essential part of a Christmas table. Neither did I enjoy the Rosolli salad, although sometimes we made it with all the ingredients as separate stripes on a platter, and then I would have some of the apple (included in our salad but not in the recipe I linked to).

Ok, now you are imagining my meager plate of food but there are things I love on the Christmas table. As a first course we usually have fish, and although I do not like grav-lax, cold-smokes salmon, lutefisk or herring, I really love some of the other fishes we used to eat. Unfortunately I do not know their names in English, but they do exist, I swear!

I absolutely adore the Christmas ham, and the upside of eating so little of everything else is that I fit even more of the ham.

In the morning we traditionally have some rice porrige with cinnamon and sugar. There is always one almond hidden in the pot of porridge and the one who finds it in their porridge can make a wish. I am not overly fond of rice porridge but it tastes good in the context of Christmas.

Christmas pastriesLet’s not forget chocolate, cakes and cookies. In addition to being the occasion for a big dinner, Christmas is the time to enjoy all those sweet things we do not allow ourselves during the rest of the year. The most traditional Christmas pastry in Finland is the ginger cookies. Again, not being a great cook, I have never made them myself, but always bought them from the supermarket. Shame on me! I have also bought the ready-made frozen dough to make a ginger-bread house on some occasions (see example of my artistry below), but this year I did not feel up to the hassle of struggling with melted sugar and fragile building materials. I also usually buy ready-made dough to make the traditional star shaped Christmas pastries (again, my talent with ready-made dough obvious in the picture above). In my defense almost nobody makes them from scratch, judging by how many packets of ready-made puff pastry are being sold in shops at Christmas time.

Ginger bread house

Ok, I was planning to explain what a wonderful meal the Christmas dinner is, but instead I have managed to do one of two things. Either you have decided that Finnish Christmas food is not all that tasty, seeing as I barely eat any of it, or you have made a firm vow never to invite me for dinner. Neither of these were my goal, but I would not blame you for either decision.

Well, whatever you have on the table, sharing a meal is a precious thing. There is something about sitting around a table eating good food that makes us well disposed towards each other. The food binds us together as we share and enjoy the same flavours. Especially in today’s hurried world where food is snatched on the run or eaten in front of the TV, sitting down together for a slow peaceful meal is a valuable tradition.

Joyful Christmas dinner