Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tis the Season

Merry Christmas from Finland!!

Traditionally costumed Joulupukki with his wife.

Christmas season is a festive time in Helsinki - from Joulupukki (Santa Claus in Finland) to Christmas parades and concerts, street lights, etc.  It is also customary for organizations and families to have pikkujoulut or little Christmases in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  These are essentially Christmas parties where people enjoy traditional Christmas food, such as riisipuuro (rice pudding), glögi (wassel), Christmas star tortes, etc.  It is a fun and joyous season.

The main shopping streets, and many of the stores are decorated beautifully.  Also many of the evergreen trees around the city have been lit up.  The decorations on Esplanade park which include three lighted reindeer and a Christmas tree are among my favorite.

Public displays of the Nativity are not common in Helsinki, although you see them in and around churches.  This is the Nativity scene at the Helsinki Temple.  It is beautiful in its simplicity.

Christmas Decorations

Like our apartment, our own Christmas decorations are little more modest than at home, but the spirit is still here.  Anne has done a good job of bringing Christmas into our home here in Helsinki with her decorations and cooking.  We love this time of year.

Anne has fallen in love with her hand made felted Nativity.  
A mistletoe garland and Christmas stockings adorn the centerpiece of our living room - our family pictures.  We enjoy having our family with us on our mission.



A joulu tonttu or elf watches over my desk from his perch on my bookshelf.  He is accompanied by a miniature straw goat.  Traditional these goats and other decorations made of grain stalks were placed around outside during the Christmas season and served as beautiful bird feeders.

We even have our own little Christmas tree, which is dwarfed by the origami stars that Anne made at the Relief Society social.  She is also enjoying burning her candles.  We miss our fireplace and hearth.  She has a candle plate that holds 6 tea lights and a larger candle in the center which she calls her "fireplace"

Anne loves rocks and has used a few of her collection (don't know how we will get them home) to build a ski hill for her felted skiers, a gift from the lady who makes the felted nativity figures.  

Seurasaari Christmas Path

Seurasaari is an open air museum on a small island in Helsinki.  It is a fun place to visit to get an idea of Finland as it was 100-300 years ago, with several old farm houses, outbuildings, manor houses, and even a windmill and church.  It is accessible year round and is a very pleasant place for a walk, but it is staffed only in the summer, with the exception of holidays.  One afternoon in the Christmas season there is a well organized event primarily for children called Christmas Path.  Below are some photos of our visit to Seurasaari with some of the young adults and sister missionaries.  Afterward we enjoyed hot chocolate and dinner in our apartment!

This was a live Nativity at the old church on Seurasaari.  The story of Christ's birth was beautiful told by these children in narrative and song.




Claire and Ellen, two of our young adults from China, were anxious for us to enjoy a real Chinese dinner at a restaurant where they both work part time.  It was unbelievably delicious.  Each dish was unique in its presentation and taste.  And the food kept coming.  We had a wonderful time, and look forward to taking some of the other senior missionaries there for a real treat!! 


From left to right - Gökmen who was baptized in October, Eren who joined the Church in Turkey in May, their friend Emre with whom we have had the pleasure of getting acquainted, Jean-Louis who was baptized this month, Noel who joined the Church last summer, Ellen, Elin (Sweden) and Claire.  These young ladies are amazing in their ability to lift our spirits.  They are continually working with the missionaries and encouraging others.

Odds and Ends

At Jean-Loius' baptism.  He is such a kind and faithful man.  He always has a smile for us!!!

My Institute class for non-Finnish speakers - Eren, Eric who is from Pusan and will be baptized in January, Jean-Louis, Emre (with the cake), Gökmen, and Wille, who is a Finn.   He has been attending my missionary preparation class and has just submitted his papers.  He will have been a member of the Church for a year next March.   He works a lot with the missionaries and will be a great missionary!!  Seated are Nim, a visitor from England, and Elin from Sweden.  When Elin heard it was Emre's birthday she made this Swedish princess cake, delicious and so thoughtful!
Eren and Gökmen have been disappointed in not seeing the snow, so on a recent Saturday we took them to Nuuksio, a national park near Helsinki in search of some snow.  We succeeded in only finding a small patch, which was very icy and crusted over.  Nevertheless, they enjoyed sliding down the hill on their seats and superman style.  They are headed back to Turkey next week.  We will miss them very much, but look forward to visiting them.  They have both participated in my mission preparation class and have taught priesthood meeting.  They will be a real strength to their small branch in Ankara, and hope to serve missions as well.

Delfina and Seismo are siblings from a member family which moved into our ward from  outside of Helsinki.  It is wonderful to have them in the ward.  Their older brothers comprise our Aaronic priesthood in the ward.  It is great to see them administering the Sacrament each Sunday.  Samuel is their home teacher.  He served a mission in Minnesota and is one of the stake young adult reps.

My family has often heard me talk about the Fagerlund family from Savonlinna.  Mauri passed away several years ago and we miss him very much.  In this picture are his wife, Tellervo, their daughter, Satu with one of her grandsons, and Harri, Mauri and Tellervo's son.  The occasion was Satu's 60th birthday party.  She was only 11 when I was in Savonlinna 49 years ago!  Her daughter, Elina, lived with us in California as an exchange student, and another daughter, Riikka, is one of our young adults!  Elina brought her family, mother and sister to visit us in California a few years ago.  It has been a joy to interact with this special family again!

The Best Christmas Gift of All!!

On December 19th our grandson, Taylor Bassett, married Whitney Minnick in the Salt Lake Temple!!  So we have a new granddaughter!!!  In this picture Whitney is being escorted by our great-granddaughter, Emma.  Aren't they both gorgeous!

Sadly we missed the wedding, but were able to FaceTime with family when they came out of the Temple.  We look forward to meeting Whitney in person when we return from our mission at the end of February.

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