The snow is falling, the winter lights are glittering, and Finnish people are getting ready for a Christmas celebration. On Christmas Eve, locals join their families around the table. Let us lurk into a local Christmas evening and discover what food is on the dinner table.
Yes, such a thing exists, and it is, in fact, a rice porridge. You will not find it on a Christmas dinner table, but it is still a traditional food for the season. Even all kindergartens have a Christmas porridge day when the rice porridge is served as a main dish. We usually sprinkle a bit of sugar and cinnamon on top- well, in my case, a lot. It is also a part of the experience to hide one almond in the pot, the one who finds it in his portion can make a wish, and of course, it comes true!
A must dish for meat lovers is the traditional Christmas ham. It can vary from a head-size piece to a big ham leg. The ham can be iced with mustard and cloves or any other Christmas spices that fit the taste. The traditional way to bake ham is in the oven. It can take up to multiple days to make a tasty ham for Christmas, so all the markets are full of ham legs weeks before the celebration. I, personally, cannot eat pork, so my option for Christmas is always turkey. It is also baked in the oven and served with a mustard sauce. It is a common pork alternative for a Christmas table.
Fish naturally belongs to a Finnish dinner table, so nobody wants to miss it at Christmas either. The variety of fish dishes is a must. Usually, you will see herring in different sauces, fresh salted salmon, smoked salmon, and why not caviar. The brave ones even eat lutefisk at Christmas. So, in terms of fish, the more, the better.
The most recognizable Christmas dish for me is the Christmas casseroles. We eat them only during the Christmas season, which makes them even more awaited and tasty. The most beloved one is the rutabaga casserole; to me, it brings all the Christmas flavor! It is usually accompanied by a carrot and potato casserole; these three are a must-try! A beetroot casserole will bring some color to the table, and a sweet potato casserole is also gaining popularity lately.
The most common salad for Christmas dinner is the one with a beetroot. You will find cooked potato, carrot, beetroot, and salted cucumber, all mixed and topped with whipped cream. It is common to put a spoon of beetroot juice into the cream to make it nice and pink. We call this salad "rosolli," and you can find it in different variations, mixed with apple or even herring. Another salad I like to include on my Christmas table is a creamy mushroom salad; you can find it served in many restaurants during the season.
If you are spending time in Finland in the Christmas season, you will probably see this word written all around the city. You might wonder, but I will tell you - "glögi" is a glint wine we drink in Finland. In Christmas markets and grocery stores, you will find a non-alcoholic version, which is juice with Christmas spices. It is a tradition in Finland to put raisins and almonds inside the drink. To taste a version with alcohol, you will have to buy it in a particular "Alko" shop, make it yourself, or simply go to a bar. Most bars offer "glögi" during the Christmas season.
You will not be surprised finding gingerbread on a Christmas table. It is also common in Finland to make desserts out of the Christmas flavors; you can already imagine a glint wine cake or a plum mousse. But besides all that, there is one special dessert you can try mostly in Finland and only at Christmas time. It is called "joulutorttu." It is made of a puff pastry topped with a beautiful prune jam. A hint of icing sugar is like a cherry on top. These tasty tarts are shaped like a star and were also made in Sweden before they got criticized for reminding the swastika symbol. I am not sure if you can still try them there, so don't forget to taste it while you are in Finland, and remember: it is a star!
The best and most traditional Christmas dinners are, of course, held at home. Christmas is a family celebration, and it is common to visit relatives and celebrate in a cozy atmosphere. You can easily buy all the traditional Christmas food in any supermarket. This, naturally, requires a kitchen. But of course, since Christmas food is that beloved in Finland, all respected restaurants have a Christmas menu for the season. Most of them, though, are making new recipes from the traditional ingredients, giving it a modern twist so that you will find something fancier than a Christmas ham on a menu. But there are still few places to recommend for a traditional Finnish Christmas experience, including a low-budget option.
If a restaurant must bring its twist into Christmas dishes to stay unique, try this Lappish twist in the restaurant Saaga. Saaga specializes in Lappish flavors from Finnish ingredients, so do not get surprised finding some reindeer instead of ham on your Christmas plate. If you like fish as much as Finns, head to the restaurant Töölönranta. This Christmas lunch will surprise you with a great variety of fish dishes. For the most traditional ones, you can count on the restaurant Loiste. It will satisfy you with ham, casseroles, the festive "rosolli" salad, fish, and few exciting desserts. Besides all that, it is right in the city center on the upper floor of a building, so lovely views are also guaranteed.
All Christmas lunches are usually presented as a buffet, where you can taste everything and get back for more for a fixed price. Such dinner in a restaurant will cost you between 55 and 65 euros. If you are on a budget and do not have a kitchen to cook self-bought food, you can have a Christmas meal in Ikea. It will save you money, starting from a free bus and ending up with price four times cheaper than the rest, for a buffet. You can hop on a bus right next to the Kiasma museum.
Spending your time in Helsinki during the Christmas season, do not hesitate to try all the traditional Christmas foods. We eat those delicacies once in a year, so there is no reason to miss them. Reserve a table in one of the excellent restaurants in Helsinki's city center, buy it all in a market, or head to Ikea for a cheaper lunch- there are options for any budget.
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