How to celebrate Easter in Finland is one of the questions a foreigner living in Finland will wonder when spring arrives. When you move to a different country, you start realizing bit by bit each different tradition and aspect of the country. You can’t imagine how many things might differ.
Easter, like other celebrations, differs from country to country. For instance, even if the majority of people is composed by Lutheran and the 25% of people do not belong to any religion, one of the most common Easter dessert, Pasha, comes from the Orthodox tradition, because of the past Russian rule over Finland.
Speaking of religions and differences, going to the Church in Italy is very common and it is a fundamental part of the Easter period. When you live Easter in Finland, you realize the Church is not such a big part.
If you celebrate Easter in Finland, you must know that this Nordic country has several traditions that are quite colorful and very characteristic. Here we will showcase some of them. After this section, you will find the four main food traditions.
Dress up as a witch
When Easter comes, precisely during Palm Sunday in the West and Holy Saturday in the East of the country, children dress up as witches and go door to door saying “Virvon, varvon, tuoreeks terveeks, tulevaks vuodeks; vitsa sulle, palkka mulle“. This sentence cannot be directly translated, but the idea is the following: children are wishing well to the person they knock on the door of and offer a decorated willow branch in exchange for a reward, which is a chocolate egg or candy. Before saying the rhymed sentence, children ask permission to do so.
Growing ryegrass – Rairuoho
A very common tradition to celebrate Easter in Finland is to grow and decorate ryegrass. Seeds, that cost some dozens of cents, are planted in a small pot or in a container and when the grass grows, it symbolizes the coming of the Spring. Children paint decorative eggs and place them next to the grass alongside with other decorations.
Easter in Finland also means that you can enjoy bonfires. Although these are not common nationwide, but rather mainly concentrated in the region of Ostrobothnia, situated in Western Finland. Bonfires are lit in Seurasaari as well, a small island in Helsinki, the capital of Finland.
What to eat
Main dish – Lamb
Coming from Italy, I know that lamb is a typical dish of this Christian festivity. It can be cooked in several ways and for instance, in my family, it is cooked with eggs and peas. It’s a very solid tradition. In Finland lamb is becoming popular, but maybe less so than in many other countries. It is eaten roasted with herbs and garlic, or alternatively Finnish eat lamb fillet with vegetables.
Other dishes can also be eaten. For instance, eating fish is very common in Finland, such as salmon and herrings. Eggs and chicken may be eaten as well.
One of the most common Finnish traditions with regard to food is mämmi. When you celebrate Easter in Finland, eating mämmi is a must. It is a sort of pudding made of water, rye flour, malted rye, salt, orange zest. The color is dark brown but it does not have anything to do with chocolate. The color comes from rye. Nowadays mämmi is typically bought from grocery stores more than made home. The recipe is not super complicated but it takes some days from making it to eating it as it needs to chill for around 4 days. This waiting period allows for the rye to become sweet naturally without the use of extra sugar and is the key for making this pudding.
Mämmi is served with cream and sugar, and it is one of those foods that people love or hate. If you happen to celebrate Easter in Finland, you must try it!
Pasha is another very common dessert that is a must-have when spending Easter in Finland. It’s part of the Orthodox tradition, still rooted in the country after the Russian rule over Finland. Pasha is made mainly of quark, a fresh acid-set cheese, combined with other ingredients, such as candied fruit, whipped cream, eggs, almonds, and lemon.
It has a very strong religious meaning, at least in Orthodox countries, where it is made during the Easter week and even brought to Church on Saturday for it to be blessed. Pasha is made using a particular mold that has Cyrillic symbols on it, along with a cross.
If you want to know more and find out the recipe, read our Pasha article.
Fazer Mignon chocolate eggs
Easter in Finland without Fazer Mignon chocolate eggs can’t happen! Fazer, as you may know, is a Finnish company that produces chocolate and candies, among other products. For Easter they make these extremely cute real eggshells filled with almond hazelnut nougat. This product dates back to 1896, it is the second oldest product made by the company and it is handmade: a tradition we definitely love!
If you want to find out more about Fazer and the history of the founder, check out our Karl Fazer article.
The beauty of each country is in its own traditions and culture. Easter in Finland brings with it some very particular traditions, such as the one where children dress up as witches and go door to door with branches to ask for a reward. In many ways it resembles the very classical American Halloween tradition of trick-or-treating, but in this case we do not have scary and bloody monsters – nor any tricks.
When it comes to food, Fazer Mignon chocolate eggs are a very long-time tradition that Finland is proud of (easy to understand why!). However, Finnish food traditions regarding Easter are not so important as Christmas traditions, for example. So it is also quite common to make other dishes for the Easter holidays. For example, a cheesecake would be quite a common dessert for many occasions. Check out the no-bake mini egg cheesecake we made for Easter last year.
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