Thursday, 27 December 2012

Christmas started with Christmas Peace!

After some years of getting the time difference wrong and forgetting the matter at 10am British time in the Christmas Eve morning, I managed to remember the Declaration of Christmas Peace from Turku. This traditional Declaration is broadcast for viewers abroad only as a direct live broadcast and if you are not at your computer at the right moment you will miss the broadcast for the year in question. You may catch a snippet by watching the YLE (the Finnish Broadcasting Company) news after the Declaration, but for some reason at least in previous years it has not been offered as a repeat viewing for the Finnish community abroad. It is a sober and serious event, but it starts the Christmas celebrations for all Finns.

Declaration in 2009 (photo from Wikipedia)

Everything stops in Finland after the Declaration at noon; the shops close and public transports ceases until Boxing Day. Things do not come to such a complete end in Britain, but the shops are closed on Christmas Day and public transport restarts only on Boxing Day as well. However, the pubs open for dinners or pints at lunch time on Christmas Day. Traditionally, nobody could think spending any time at Christmas in a pub in Finland. Not that we moved anywhere from the TV set on Christmas Day. We even did the Queen’s speech, not to mention Dr Who, Strictly Come Dancing, Call the Midwife and Downton Abbey. I felt bad conscious, but it was a very rainy day, so Number One Son did not lose any outdoor time.

This year Archaeologist Husband reminded me about the Declaration of Christmas Peace so that Number One Son can attach to his Finnish roots. I got the laptop on just in time and Number One Son saw the whole event just as one should see it. Beamed from Turku with the Medieval Cathedral at the background, the vice mayor read the Medieval text after the Cathedral bells had stricken twelve times. There was snow on ground and the brass band was playing the traditional songs and men’s choir singing. The music included the standards – the national anthem and the Bjorneborg soldiers’ military march. Number One Son managed to follow the Finnish section, but lost the interest with the Swedish text. He was very delighted to see the children in the audience and waved at them. We rounded up the traditional start to the Finnish Christmas Eve celebrations by watching the Teletubbies Finnish Christmas video over on YouTube. Then we started our Christmas – albeit without sauna, a trip to light up the candles at the cemetery or a visit from a Boy Scout Father Christmas.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Intercultural Christmas

The Christmas holiday is nearing and the planned Christmas activities will take place. We have nothing major planned, but I will try to do gingerbread for the first time ever. I have never bothered to do them for myself or just for two, since the dough has to rest overnight, but this year I will do some with Number One Son. I wish this time I am just not having wishful thinking about interesting activities and good food, but he will be involved in using rolling pin and cookie cutters. It depends if he feels like doing it and there is nothing more interesting for him. Hohum, at least the house will smell Christmassy.

We celebrate a mixed Anglo-Finnish Christmas. We celebrate Christmas Eve according to the Finnish custom and will have some pork for food. The main stack of presents will be given on the Eve evening with us the adults only getting a nominal packet. Archaeologist Husband does insist to do the Christmas Stockings and has been shopping around and stocking stocking fillers. The stocking appears mysteriously onto my and Number One Son’s beds before the morning. Last year I woke up when Archaeologist Husband tried to pass the stocking to the end of the bed. Embarrassing for the ‘Father Christmas’ and me.

In England the Christmas Calendar has one chocolate more for Number One Son than in the Nordic countries. On Christmas Day we will have some duck. I would prefer Goose, but from the previous experience we know that with all the hot fat oozing from the bird and the need to drain the dish it will be dangerous with an unreliable toddler in the tow. I have to surrender and serve some Brussels sprouts at some point, but I so prefer green beans.

On Boxing Day we will have fish following a Finnish custom. No salted cod though, since I do not like it. We will enjoy some salmon with vegetables instead. The desserts will be cheesecake – just because it is so nice. We have some minced pies, but they have a tendency to stay in the pack. Chocolate will do for any other occasion; with coffee or for dessert. I have not made my mind about doing some rice porridge in one of the mornings, but I probably will give it a pass. I will become hungry and want my breakfast before the pudding rice will be cooked.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

First navity play

Our nursery had placed their navity play nicely on 12/12/12 so there is now a date to remember. If only they it had been possible to organise at 12.12 pm...

This was Number One Son’s first navity play. However, he has been on the stage before. Last Saturday he ‘participated’ in an elf sing & play in the local Finnish school in its Christmas party. In that occasion the schedule was late and he and another boy lost interest. They firmly lied down onto the stage and stayed there – no matter how much the teacher and the other children danced and jumped around. The cheeky two did whatever they wanted on the stage. Luckily, the other toddler was leading...

This time the navity play event was packed. The children were delightful, but we at the back hardly saw anything. One had to use one’s smart phone in order to see the stage area properly. Nevertheless, the Whoopsy Daisy Angel was a joy. Number One Son, who had jumped out of joy in a rehearsal I saw when picking him up, was too tired at the end of the day and was rubbing his eyes most of the time. At least he remained staying up with the other shepherds and did not cry or run away or lie flat on the stage area.

The decision to have all the children performing at the same time this same evening resulted with a cramped viewing area and a chaos afterwards. It took ages to find our son and his proper clothes and prepare him for the walk home in the ice cold evening. I can understand that the children looked extremely cute and the stage was lively with all the toddlers on stage at the same time. In addition, the personnel were there after hours, too, and it would probably be too much for them in the days before the holidays to do it all twice. Nevertheless, the parents had enjoyed it more.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

I admit – I feed my child processed food

There has been a series of newspaper articles about families being stretched financially and having to eat cheap processed food instead of buying fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and fish. The prices begin to be shocking with bread being truly expensive when compared with prices a couple of years ago. With dwindling archaeological work available and Archaeologist Husband having to swap his part-time job to potentially occasional self-employed contracts from his stretched boss and enrolment levels being hard to reach, money pinching is familiar act in our family. Nevertheless, the consumption of the familiar children’s foods is not only an economic choice. You should see his face when been served Finnish meat soup. He picks the meat out and leaves the rest – when you are lucky!

Number One Son has always been a picky eater, who luckily likes fruit, dairy and wholemeal bread, so at least some of his diet is healthy. Nevertheless, cooking fresh dishes was dispiriting, when our son declined to eat the dinners I had thought to be tasty and healthy. After observing the things he was happily downing – the bottom line of any nutrition is to actually eat and survive – we have gone along and down the slippery slope of burgers, fish fingers and pizza. Things have not been helped by his avoidance of hot food – it has to be tepid for him to touch it. Some while ago it became easiest and more economic to have things in the freezer, prepare before lunch or tea time and serve when he is willing. The more varied menu consumed and fully eaten in the nursery has to be down to sheer peer pressure!

I feel the tiniest bit of bad conscious, but I am happy to see his cheerful eating. And boy – he is getting hungrier and hungrier with every growth spurt! I find consolation in the fact that fish fingers and fish cakes have fish in them, baked beans combine beans and tomato, if one does not think too much about sugar and salt, and I only buy 100% beef burgers (from special offers, I admit) instead of the cheapest slurry of every meaty bit ever extracted from a carcass available in economy ranges. The cheap margherita pizzas from Aldi actually taste of yeasty proper dough, too, unlike the Goodfellows sugar-added maize and soya fests. I also try to avoid reconstituted chicken and chocolaty cereals. Thus, Special K with red fruit is Number One Son’s favourite (although the wholegrain new rice crispies turned out to be so sugary one can smell it metres away - now he insists of having them every time we give him cereal). In addition, Number One Son slurps grape juice or milk and eats pear or strawberries after most hearty meals and loves toast with Marmite. A full child happily playing after some potato waffles is preferable to a hungry child who refuses to eat hand-cooked gourmet food. This also makes a child to eat at meal times and not to snack continuously.