In the south of the Netherlands we celebrate carnaval at the start of the traditional fast before Easter. In Finland they’ve got their own way of celebrating: Laskiainen. The day I celebrated Laskiainen coincided with valentine’s day or ystäväpäivä.
The university I went to had a cool program for exchange students called the friend-family program. When you sign up for this you get matched to a Finnish person so you can experience some of the Finnish culture. On Laskiainen some families teamed up to create a traditional Finnish day for me and two other exchange students. My Finnish friend Suvi took me to a new part of town for some sledding and socializing.
There were heaps of families present and I loved that not only the kids went sledding, but the whole family joined in. With bruises on our bums we also got the opportunity to try some cross-country skis. I’d never been on skis before and squeezed my feet into shoes two sizes too small. It was a friend of a friend that let me have a go. I raced against the other students in the straight practice tracks. Even getting the shoes in the skis was a challenge!
After this small workout it was time for a typical Finnish thing: hot drinks with sausages. Everywhere in Finland I came across barbecue areas where the Finnish prepare their makkara, sausages, rain or shine. When everyone had had enough of the cold we were invited into the home of my Finnish teacher. She’d made a traditional pea soup and pulla, a round cake/bread with jam or cream. This is the most special valentine’s day I’ve ever had. I felt so much love being invited in a cultural celebration and feeling like you totally belong!