When it comes to religious holidays, Finland is a little bit weird. Naturally Finns celebrate Christmas and Easter as well as other holidays. Nevertheless, as Christianity arrived to Finland relatively late, in the 11th century, elements of Finnish paganism were rooted deeply in people’s believes. Some of these elements still survive today. Christian references mix with customs related to the arrival of spring. And the cuisine surrounding Finnish Easter is just as unique as its traditions.
Mihir and I take great pride in having tried pretty much everything this country has to offer in terms of food and drinks. Admittedly, we like only very few of them, like some of the pastries, but we can certainly appreciate the historic development of Finnish cuisine. After all, not much grows in this climate and Finns have found unique interpretations of the ingredients available to them. Down below we want to introduce you two the two most popular Finnish Easter treats 🙂
Mämmi is a savoury pudding from malt and rye. It’s black in colour and looks incredibly unappetizing 😛 Preparing it at home takes several hours, but the mämmi will remain edible if chilled for several days. It was traditionally eaten during lent, and in particular on Good Friday when cooking was against religious custom. It was then served in a bowl made from birch bark. Today mämmi is mass-produced and a favourite amongst young and old. Indeed, prior to the Easter weekend this year, Finnish broadcaster YLE warned of a potential shortage in mämmi supplies. Fortunately it didn’t come to that and we managed to pick up a pack today.
As its general taste is more on the savoury side, to make this a real treat, Finns will add a sweet element to it. If you like to be more traditional, eat is with cream and sugar. Alternatively add a good dollop of vanilla ice cream. That’s how we prefer it, anyway. You can buy either a big pack (700g) or smaller packs (100-200g) from the supermarket in the weeks running up to easter. If you’re in Finland around that time, why not give it a try?
Pasha is another kind of pudding, but made from animal proteins, such as cheese, eggs, and cream. To this Finns add seasonings according to their taste, but most commonly it is dried fruits. Once combined, the mixture is left to set in a mould, commonly decorated with religious motifs. Pasha is a rather decadent desert in historic terms. And as the consumption of animal products was prohibited during Lent, it is also a perfect post-fasting treat. It is believed to have come to Finland from Russia, as it was more commonly found in Karelia, Eastern Finland. Today, however, you can find small containers of it in all supermarkets around Finland for less than a buck. Have a taste!
What else is happening?
Naturally most people spend Easter with their families, as many are off from work for a long 4-day weekend. Expect that certain offices might be closed, although supermarkets remain open throughout the whole period these days. If you have the means to travel outside the city limits, perhaps warm yourself at one of the bonfires held on Easter Saturday throughout the country. Or, if you’re in Finland in the week leading up to Easter, why not attend one of the passion plays or processions? They are a rare glimpse of religious practice in a country where 25% of its population are firm non-believers.
If you are renting and apartment through airBnB or similar during this time, you may want to keep some chocolate by your door. In Finnish custom, Finnish children dress up as Easter witches and go from door to door. They come to bless your house in return for sweet treats. If and when you open your door to them, they will recite the traditional rhyme “Virvon, varvon, tuoreeks terveeks, tulevaks vuodeks; vitsa sulle, palkka mulle!” (I wave a twig for a fresh and healthy year ahead; a twig for you, a treat for me!). They will then present you with birch or willow twigs, decorated with crepe paper. You can show your appreciation by giving them chocolate eggs or small change in return. Hyvää Pääsiäistä!
Now, what do you think? Have you tried any of these traditional Finnish Easter treats? What do you eat for Easter back home? Share your thoughts and pictures with us! Let’s stay in touch!