Christmas Begins with the Scandinavian Christmas Market

Christmas started early for me this week with the wonderful annual Scandinavian Christmas street market on Albion Street in London.  This market has been going for about 10 years now and this year was the biggest yet.  Stalls selling Norwegian knitwear, Swedish seeded rye bread with scrumptious smoked salmon pate, Estonian warming fast food and of course cool Finnish design and our lovely Joulupukki (Father Christmas himself!)
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Rotherhithe in South London is a bit of a Nordic hub.  There’s the Swedish church on Lower Road, and the Norwegian and Finnish churches on Albion Street.  All churches are Seamen’s churches and where seafarers and immigrants during the late 19th Century from Scandinavia could congregate and maintain their unique Nordic identity.  I have been going to the Finnish Seamen’s Church since I was a baby – I was Christened there!  My mum then took me fortnightly to the Finnish Saturday School which was held at the church.  The lessons were very informal and although we did read and have homework it was more about chatting in Finnish, drawing, playing and have a few hours of being little Finns.  I did love it.
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I have been going to the Christmas Market at the church since I can remember.  As a teen I helped out in the kitchen peeling potatoes and prepping other veg.  One year I worked on the confectionary stall selling my favourite Fazer chocolate and delicious liquorice.  Nowadays I’m there to support the church and stock up on Finnish goodies.
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The church stocks all of the staples a Finn would need:

That really is a very limited list, there was so much more!
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We started off by going outside to the grill.  They were serving grilled sausages, mashed potato, reindeer, pea soup and a selection of soft and alcoholic drinks.  All were accompanied by delicious dark rye bread and lingonberry jam.  I had reindeer and mash (sorry Rudolph) and the children shared a sausage and mash.  We discovered that Ezra loves rye bread.  It’s nothing like bread as Brits know it. Finnish rye bread is dark, strong and fairly chewy.  I think it tastes best when lightly toasted with some melting margarine spread over the top.  Ezra took the whole piece and over the space of about 20 minutes devoured the lot!
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Next we went inside to the café upstairs.  We shared a Scandi smoked salmon open sandwich which is rye bread with lettuce, cucumber, smoked salmon and dill, a filter coffee and 2 cinnamon buns (‘korvapuusti’ which is a cinnamon and cardamom swirl bun).  Once we had eaten our fill we went back downstairs to shop.  The prices aren’t cheap.  Already expensive food is marked up due to the transportation and import costs and to raise money for the church.  We treated ourselves to:

  • Ruisleipä (rye bread)
  • Karjalanpiirakka (savoury rice pudding parcel)
  • Muumi toothpaste (Moomins!)
  • Felix Sinappikurkkusalaatti (pickle mustard salad)
  • Auran Sinappi – tulinen (strong mustard)

I could have filled my basket over and over again but this was enough for us.  We still have some supplies left over from our trip to Finland this summer.
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Whilst we were shopping we bumped into Muumipeikko (Moonintroll) and Pikku Myy (Litte My).  The Moomins were created by Swedish-speaking Finn Tove Jonsson.  She created the Moomin characters and wrote books which were published in the mid-late 1940s.  The stories are so typically Finnish with an absolute focus on family and the natural world.  Moomins are more popular than ever, both in Finland and the world over.  I tried to encourage Violet to agree to have a photo taken.  As interested as she was in the giant Moomin Troll wandering around the fair she did NOT want to pose for a photo.  So here’s me grinning with Muumipeikko with Violet’s face buried in my neck and you can just about see Ezra’s foot peeking out from my back!
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We left the church with our tummies full, our senses topped up with Finnishness and bags full of treats.  I am so proud of my Finnish heritage and hope that my children will one day also feel that stamp of unique Finnish identity in their hearts.

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26 Comments

  1. November 23, 2015 / 10:14 am

    What’ a great post. The market looked amazing and how special to be able to share your culture with your kids and give them a clear sense of their identity. My kids are Dutch English and I think it’s so important they learn from both cultures. #fartglitter
    Catie: An imperfect mum recently posted…Book Corner: Love MonsterMy Profile

    • November 25, 2015 / 1:18 pm

      Ah that’s so lovely that you are of the same mind. I do find it difficult to speak Finnish with them but doing things like this and going to Finland regularly should help establish their identity.
      Vix x

  2. November 23, 2015 / 11:02 am

    Must be really cool with a multicultural city on your doorstep. The crafts looks lovely. I loved the Moomins when I was little. I didn’t know they were still going. Thanks for linking up to #fartglitter x
    Mama, My Kid Doesn’t Poop Rainbows recently posted…The #FartGlitter Linky: Week EightMy Profile

    • November 25, 2015 / 1:16 pm

      Yeh they are still going although I don’t know whether the cartoons are in English… I watched them in Finnish as a kid and have bought Violet some DVDs. But all the merchandise is still very popular.
      Vix x

  3. November 24, 2015 / 3:46 pm

    Those BOOTIES!!
    So cute!!
    Everything looks so wonderful. Thanks for sharing. #abitofeverything

    • November 25, 2015 / 1:13 pm

      Weren’t the booties so cute. They had adult versions too!
      Vix x

  4. November 24, 2015 / 4:24 pm

    This market sounds amazing! I love those little fatherchristmas/knome/hat figure (I’m not quite sure what you would call them!) things – I have so many of them that come out every Christmas that I got at Christmas markets round my way. I’m obsessed with them (despite, as we have established, not actually knowing what they are called!) #abitofeverything
    Silly Mummy recently posted…Only the Weak Are Cruel *My Profile

  5. November 24, 2015 / 11:03 pm

    I love Christmas markets. When I worked in Sourhampton there was a German one every year. I loved browsing around and smelling the amazing food. It looks like you had lots of fun, even if Violet wasn’t impressed by the Moomins 🙂 #TwinklyTuesday
    Claire at Tin Box Traveller recently posted…Christmas Market at Winchester CathedralMy Profile

    • November 25, 2015 / 1:12 pm

      I love German Christmas markets too!
      Yup, she was fairly terrified of the Moomin!
      Vix x

    • November 25, 2015 / 1:10 pm

      Hehe, they were all really lovely!

  6. November 25, 2015 / 12:36 pm

    What an interesting post! Thank you for sharing a bit of your culture and traditions. And I always love Christmas Fairs! The newborn shoes look so cute and Smoked Salmon Pate- that sounds tempting! I’ve never tried before but I do adore Smoked Salmon. Cloudberry? What an interesting name…what kind of a berry is that? Oh, I feel like trying some of the things you’ve listed! Thanks for linking with #abitofeverything.
    El recently posted…A bit of Everything Linky Week 7My Profile

    • November 25, 2015 / 1:27 pm

      Cloudberry is a Nordic berry and it’s the national berry of Finland. You know how countries which use the Euro currency have a symbol of their country on the back of the 1 and 2 Euro coins, well Finland has an image of the cloudberry on one of its coins!
      It’s a little orange coloured berry and looks like a fat raspberry. Utterly delicious so I really recommend you try it if you ever get the chance!
      Vix x

  7. November 25, 2015 / 1:43 pm

    Wow, the market looks such fun and really interesting to poke around. But a giant Moomin! That’s just the best. 🙂

    • November 25, 2015 / 3:22 pm

      Hehe the giant Moomin was great. He is there are Easter also!

  8. November 25, 2015 / 9:55 pm

    What an amazing post! I like Christmas too, It’s a magical time for me full of joy and love. Also you’ve posted wonderful photos, especially with Fazer chocolates, yummy yummy
    Eugenia recently posted…Let’s drive football!My Profile

    • November 30, 2015 / 7:51 am

      The Fazer chocolate is simply the best!!

  9. November 27, 2015 / 5:39 pm

    oh how wonderful, nothing like a Scandi Christmas X #bestandworst

    • November 30, 2015 / 7:45 am

      Yep, got me in the Christmas spirit! x

    • December 1, 2015 / 11:28 am

      I think you are right. And afterall Father Christmas is from Finland! x

  10. November 30, 2015 / 11:02 pm

    This looks like great fun especially with the moomins wandering around too. I remember them from when j was little although Monkeys not got into them yet. I love the little felt boots and Father Christmas. Sounds I’ve you did a little bit if stocking up. I’ve not tried reindeer yet although did see it cooked on the hairy bikers!! #twinklytuesday X
    Mudpie Fridays recently posted…Penguin CalendarMy Profile

    • December 1, 2015 / 11:27 am

      I saw the Hairy Bikers in Scandinavia also! I think they portrayed Finland very well! x

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