Earlier this month, I was invited to a Christmas party planned by my friend, Satu, for some of her Finnish-speaking female friends. With her daughter, Shanthi, Satu has recently opened a new dance and yoga studio, Academy Afrah and Shanthi Om Studio, and the party was held at their studio on a Saturday night before Christmas. Satu and Shanthi had thought up a beautiful table setting for the middle of the floor, with comfy yoga cushions for seats.
The rules of the evening were that guests could only speak Finnish the entire night. I loved this challenge! Also, we each had to bring some typical Finnish food to share for the potluck. It didn't take me too long to decide what to bring: I brought the bottle above filled with my home-made likööri made from my deep purple garden grapes, some sugar, and a bottle of Finlandia vodka. Everyone tried a tippa (drop), even those who normally don't drink alcohol. Who could pass up this organic, full of anti-oxidants delicious elixir? that every Finnish woman should know how to make? ...using her own berries, of course. I followed the directions my aunt Aulikki gave me. She made hers from tyyrni marjat (sea buckthorn berries). The northern concord grapes that grow in my garden are my special northern Ontario touch to this traditional Finnish liquid.
I also brought a tȁyte kakku, a whipped cream cake filled with strawberry cream and topped with fruit. Of course, neither kiwis and peaches are grown in Finland, but that's my multicultural touch to this traditional cake. Some of the other food included turnip casserole, beet and carrot salad, piirakka, meatballs, piparit (cookies) and Christmas tarts (joulu tortut).
Satu had set up a Finnish-style Christmas tree, which for us Finnish-Canadians means sparse branches and simple, natural decorations. It is the opposite of the traditional Canadian Christmas tree that is often colour-coded, laden with matching elaborate (and expensive) decorations, and often artificial. Later in the evening, some of the women hopped around the tree with their index fingers pointing to the sky, singing "tip tap tip tap tippi tippi tip tap tip tip taaap..."
One of the guests brought an old poster of a nostalgic Finnish Christmas that she pinned on the wall above the food. I'm sure many Finnish Christmases have been nothing at all like this idealized picture. I know I could tell quite a few stories about Christmas-time drama. But it's nice imagining such innocent perfection.
The mood of the night was fun-filled, festive, relaxing, joyful, and warm. I thank Satu and Shanthi for making this magic possible.
Now, one of the mirrors had its own way of reflecting back the world....or was that the koti likööri tonttu playing games with me?