I was in Porvoo just before Christmas and it was just a trip to the fairy tale.
In December I was on a tour of the Christmas fairs in Finland and Sweden. Told you all about them in my reviews. The tour to Finland and Sweden “Christmas Fairs” I still have to tell you about the fair in the oldest Finnish city of Porvoo. I had already been to this lovely city in the summer, I wanted to see what it was like in the winter with Christmas decorations. Of course, what I wrote about the fairs in Helsinki and Stockholm are very similar to the fairs in Porvoo. And the elements of decoration are almost the same, but still I suggest seeing winter Porvoo in my review. Porvoo in winter did not meet my expectations, greeting our tour group with rain. We had to open our umbrellas or put on our raincoats. Unfortunately, there was no snow or light frost. Porvoo is a small town, population 50 thousand people, founded in the middle of 14th century. We walked along the streets of the old town with excursion.
The streets are winding, narrow, paved with stones. You have to wear comfortable shoes. But there is a street called the Devil’s Staircase and is a stone steps between the other streets. According to ancient legend, Satan himself built these rock steps. Even with comfortable shoes, but in winter in the ice to walk on these slippery steps is dangerous. Metal railings are made for safety, otherwise it is impossible. And between the large stones are sprinkled with small cobblestones, which are stored in special boxes in the summer. When the winter is over, the small cobblestones are put back into the boxes.
In front of Porvoo’s main attraction, the 15th century Cathedral, stood a natural Christmas tree, as usual decorated with a simple garland with bulbs.
In the distance you could see the Kokonniemi ski slope. And only there we could see a cap of white snow. We saw no more snow, but green grass was everywhere.
The main Christmas tree stood on the market square in front of the town hall. The main Christmas fair was also there. Lots of market stalls, crowds of people. Local people and tourists.
In the stalls sell Christmas souvenirs and decorations – fir tree wreaths, very beautiful white fluffy angels and sheep, goats.
Of course the products for Christmas, but we could not try anything here. Not a treat. Here a man sells a Finnish delicacy – herring.
Herring seems to be a popular Russian dish, but I have not heard about herring festivals, like in Helsinki. They say that these grand festivals offer a huge amount of herring, in various forms: fried, salted, baked, and with all kinds of exquisite sauces. I often bought herring in a jar with mustard sauce. But this kind of herring is not to my liking, my family did not like it. They say it’s too sugary and sweet. And if we’re talking about fish, then at the beginning of Old Town street there’s a snackbar called Hanna Maria. And at this cafe you can try a very tasty Finnish salmon cream soup.
But as usual I didn’t have enough time, although I really wanted some soup. So I tried it at the fish smokehouse on the way back to St. Petersburg. I will say that the glory of fish soup is not at all exaggerated. You could scoop out of the pot yourself as much as you wanted, straight whole fish with chunks of potatoes. It was very tasty. Souvenirs could be bought not only directly in the stalls at the fair, but also in small, but very stylish and cozy stores. I remembered one from my last trip. Then I bought a nice ceramic house.
Many houses (both the town hall and the cathedral) were still in this store. These cute little stores seemed to me like wizards’ shops. Both inside the stores, the windows, and at the entrance to the shops, everything was festively decorated.
The entrances to the stores were usually decorated with garlands of spruce branches with lighted bulbs, Christmas wreaths, and compositions of bright heather. And, as it seemed to me, a peculiarity of Porvoo is the lighted lanterns at the entrance.
I saw a goat made of green spruce branches again.
And some goats were decorating the window in the barbershop.
Townspeople lovingly decorate not only streets and stores, but their homes as well. The houses are small, one or two stories, looked somehow fabulous and very cozy. There were candles in the windows, red and white Christmas stars burning.
In addition to the small stores, there are bigger ones. I was in two. One was a craft store. And needlework is an important part of Finnish women’s lives. In the summer, I saw some needlewomen sitting at the entrance of the store and making something. Very beautiful things were appearing before my eyes. In this cozy handicraft store there are so many balls of knitting thread in almost all the colors of the rainbow. I especially loved the yellow apple-shaped balls with green leaves.
Pentik, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2021, is a store that brings Nordic beauty and comfort to the homes of Finns. It’s a Finnish design store where we’ve admired interior design items and unique contemporary design. There are no Made in China and mass-market goods here. It is believed that the Finnish designers are recognized around the world, they have their own view of beauty, the items created by them – minimalist in design and maximum ergonomics.
This store has table setting items, textiles and home decor – lamps, photo frames, candle holders, baskets and more. We admired the beautifully set Christmas table. The color of the decor is regal red. The festive red tablecloth and napkins, the candles necessarily present on the table are also red. On the plates are red apples, which symbolize Adam and Eve, according to the Finnish Lutheran calendar, Christmas Day is their name day.
Rows of bottles of red wine are tied with red bows. On the festive table are the characters of Scandinavian fairy tales – little red gnomes. As I told in my review of the fair in Helsinki, one of the main colors of the Christmas holidays is red. And this color is often found in the decoration of store windows representing modern women’s fashion. Red dresses, red sweaters and blouses set the tone for women’s holiday closet.
Everything would be fine, and there are a lot of things to buy and like, but. But it is the euro exchange rate. Everything is very expensive. Such cheapest cookie cutters cost about two hundred rubles apiece.
These molds are for traditional gingerbread cookies – piparkakut. (By the way, I brought back from Riga at one time – piparkukas). Piparkakut is a symbol of Finnish Christmas, and usually the whole Finnish family makes these cookies in the shape of stars, hearts, and various animals. They sell molds for this as well. These cookies are not only eaten, they also decorate the Christmas tree. But I did bring something back from Porvoo. The sweets come from the Brunberg store, which has been in operation in the old town of Porvoo since the end of the 19th century.
The most famous candy is chocolate truffles, which have been made since 1926. Everyone also buys a candy called Kiss. This candy of airy soufflé and chocolate in different flavors (strawberry, coffee, banana) was once called Kiss of the Negro. Let me tell you right away, I liked the candy, as well as everyone I gave it to and brought it as a gift. And it seems that not only people are attracted to the sweet aroma coming from this store, but the doggies as well. I saw a cute little doggy begging for candy from his owners outside the store.
The weather in Porvoo failed us, it didn’t give us a light drizzle and fluffy white snow, but you can get warm with fragrant, hot gleg. So I did, lingering by the blue car, treating myself to this Christmas drink.
But the time in Porvoo, unfortunately, is over, again not enough time to do everything, and again on the road, now back home. And somehow I want to go to Porvoo again.
Christmas and New Year in Porvoo
Christmas and New Year’s Eve are very special holidays, and magical not only for children but also for adults: some of them wait for presents, while others wait for happy changes in the New Year. The Old Town of Porvoo is probably one of the best places to see with your own eyes the Christmas traditions of Europe and meet the New Year in a fabulous atmosphere.
Christmas and New Year in Porvoo. Photo: flickr.com
Picturesquely decorated shop windows, the light of torches in the ancient streets and paved squares, the sounds of Christmas songs and the scent of glög from various corners of the Old Town beckon tourists from all over the world to celebrate Christmas and the New Year right here.
– from 5500 rubles – from 11300 rubles – from 5500 rubles
The special aura of the Middle Ages, which residents of Porvoo have managed to preserve, the 14th century architecture, squares and narrow winding streets already take us into a fairy tale. And Christmas decorations add a special flavor to your New Year’s trip to this city: this vacation in Porvoo will be different from all previous and subsequent ones.
In Finland, as well as in all of Europe, the main holiday is Christmas, not New Year. It is customary to celebrate Christmas with family at home. Therefore, on the night of December 24-25 you will not see a mass festivities in the streets of Porvoo. But as you know, it is not even the celebration that matters, but its anticipation: all the citizens are involved in the Christmas preparations, and the Christmas atmosphere can be felt in the streets of Porvoo already in November.
Christmas in Porvoo
In November, as elsewhere in Finland, the city celebrates the start of the Christmas season: Christmas lights are lit up in the streets, Joulupukki arrives and everyone sings carols, and the markets are busy and merry. The city announces a contest for the best window decoration. Shopping centers, as well as hundreds of small stores, will light their holiday lights and the city will “put on” its holiday “attire.”
The tradition of Christmas opening is observed in all cities. But in Porvoo the season opens twice: in the city center and in the Old Town.
Opening of the season in the city center
Christmas season in Porvoo opens on November 19. On this day it is a must to go with children to the center of the city – Lundinaukio Square. In front of the Lundi department store will be the first meeting with the Finnish Santa Claus – Joelupukki. And not only him, but also his wife! Fabulous couple will arrive at the square surrounded by cheerful gnomes who will play with holiday guests. Festival program on the square Lundinaukio (in front of Lundi department store) will look like this:
- Christmas music will play from 10.00, children will ride the pony (2 euros) and meet cute animals that can be stroked. While waiting for Joelupukki the audience will be entertained by cheerful gnomes.
- At 11.00 Joelupukki arrives with his wife and helpers. Everyone will sing Christmas carols and play together. The program is prepared by Porvoo City and Children Theaters.
- You can talk to Joelupukki at the Lundi department store from 12:00 to 13:30, and then Grandpa will go to the Art Factory, where he will stay until 16:00. You can follow him on the street Läntinen Aleksanterinkatu 1.
Finnish Santa Claus and his wife
At the Art Factory (Läntinen Aleksanterinkatu 1):
- From 12 noon to 3 p.m. in the shopping arcade, everyone will be handed out holiday balloons.
- From 13:00 to 16:00, magician Timo Taikuri will perform magic tricks.
- From 14.30 to 16.00 – with Joelupukki you can talk and take selfies in the lobby of the Art factory.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the same day, there will be a Christmas Bazaar in the Old Firehouse at Kirkkokatu 2 where you can buy Christmas souvenirs, treats and handmade handicrafts for your home or as a present for your friends.
During the Christmas season in Porvoo, additional parking lots in Rauhankatu square are opened for motorists. They are open from November 19 to December 31 from 8 to 21.00 on weekdays and from 8 to 18.00 on Saturdays and Sundays. Parking is paid, 2 euro.
Free parking will be available on Saturdays – November 19, November 26, December 3, December 10, December 17, December 24, December 31.
Year-round free parking can be found on the square near the old cathedral, on the streets Kaivokatu, Kokonniementie and Papinkatu.
Opening of the season in the Old Town
Joelupukki on Porvoo Town Hall Square
The second opening ceremony of the Christmas season takes place exactly one week later, on November 26. This time it will take place at the Town Hall Square.
The residents of Porvoo themselves call the Town Hall Square event “the hit of the season. Joelupukki and his gnomes arrive at the ancient square lit by torches. Christmas songs and hymns, round dances and dancing await guests here.
The festive program starts at 15.00.
On November 26 at 16.00, “Christmas in Old Porvoo” is a one-hour excursion for children. Starts from the Town Hall Square in the Old Town. Cost – 5 euros for a child, accompanying adults free of charge.
Christmas is getting closer: fairs, tours and music
As Europe’s favourite holiday gets closer, life in Porvoo heats up. In December, Christmas markets open in many parts of the city. For example, you can buy nice souvenirs at the Art Factory (Läntinen Aleksanterinkatu 1), where the Christmas fair runs from December 9 to 11.
December 10-11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Old Town will also be a festival market – you’ll find it on Town Hall Square.
And on December 18 you can find yourself at the fair on the Pellinki archipelago. The tradition of the fair on the archipelago, 30 km from Porvoo, is not so long – it began to be organized here in 2010. However, it is worth going there to get not only New Year’s gifts, local delicacies and food for the festive table, but also a vivid impression: trade and fun takes place surrounded by the sea.
Pellinka Archipelago Fair
The sea has always been the main breadwinner for the inhabitants of the archipelago: for centuries they have been fishing and building boats. Also, these places have been a source of inspiration for artists and writers. In the fall of 2010, the archipelago administration and trade association had the idea to organize annual Christmas fairs called Skärgårdsjul according to ancient traditions. The holiday has a family character – both adults and children are welcome here.
In addition to the fairs, the music of course contributes to the Christmas spirit. In the Cathedral (Kirkkotori, 1) there will be free concerts performed by Finnish musicians and singers. So there’s a concert by the Finnish Baroque Orchestra on November 27, cantatas by Bach on December 15, and Christmas concerts by the Oulu orchestra on December 16 and 21. Christmas notes will lift guests’ spirits to the vaults of the majestic Cathedral – and what’s a holiday without a special mood?
You can also celebrate the upcoming Christmas season at the Porvoo City Museum, which presents Christmas exhibitions over the holidays. From December 14 to January 8, admission to exhibitions is free. For example, at the Merchant’s House of the Hill (Välikatu 11) you can find yourself in the atmosphere of Christmas in the 18th century. The house will be decorated in the traditions of the rich merchant’s family: guests are welcomed by a Christmas tree, antique tableware on the festive table, elegant decorations of the rooms and halls. The exhibition will tell the story of the Hill family’s Christmas traditions.
St. Lucia’s Day
St. Lucia’s Day
December 13, the countries of Northern Europe celebrate St. Lucia Day. Finland is no exception. Even in November they start looking for a suitable Lucia, and on December 13th she is crowned: she is dressed in a white dress (to symbolize innocence) with a red sash (to symbolize martyrdom), in the main cathedral of Helsinki they put a wreath on her with burning candles, and the procession through the streets of Helsinki starts together with the mummers.
Christian tradition connects the essence of the holiday with the story of the martyr from Syracuse – St. Lucia, who was blinded and killed for her faith in Christ. But there is a legend that in medieval times there lived Lucia, the wife of a Swedish fisherman. One day her husband went to sea, but a storm broke out. Unclean forces walking the earth that night extinguished the lighthouse, and then Lucia went out on a high rock with a lantern to light the way to the pier. The devils became angry, attacked the girl, and cut off her head. But even after her death her ghost stood on the rock with the lantern.
Porvoo has adopted this tradition in miniature: in November the citizens vote for the suitable candidate for the role of Lucia, and on December 13 you can watch the ceremonial coronation of Lucia on the porch of the Old Town Hall. This event takes place in the evening at 6 p.m. The address of the Old Town Hall is Raatihuoneentori Square.
Christmas Eve. Proclamation of Christmas Peace
Proclamation of Christmas Peace
The proclamation of Christmas peace is an old tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages and has survived in Finland to the present day. According to guide Anna Vasiljeva, the main proclamation ceremony takes place in Turku, but in Porvoo it takes on a local scale. The Porvoo city administration officially proclaims Christmas Peace from the porch of the Old City Hall in two languages – Swedish and Finnish – so that the holidays are peaceful and prosperous. The text to be read out is an old one, preserved from the Middle Ages. Here is its content:
Tomorrow, God willing, will be the blessed Nativity of our Lord and Savior; and we hereby declare a general Christmas peace, calling upon all to spend this feast with proper reverence, quietly and peacefully, for whoever shall disturb this peace and disturb the Christmas feast by any lawless or improper conduct, with aggravating circumstances, shall be subject to the penalty which the law and decrees specifically decree for every offense and violation.
No refreshments or round dances are provided on this day. But the scene of the coronation of a beautiful girl with a wreath of candles, the old tradition and the Christmas carols that will be sung during the ceremony are worth seeing.
Porvoo: In the footsteps of the imperial family
Strings of common history run between Russia and Finland, and many buildings in Porvoo still commemorate people and events related to their shared Russian and Finnish history.
Glög – a hot red wine drink with added spices
New Year’s Eve, just like Christmas, in Finland it is not customary to celebrate in a big way and folk festivities. However, a walk through the old Porvoo, which is reminiscent of a fairy tale, is a great way to celebrate the old year and the new: red granaries on the banks of Porvonjoki look brighter than usual on a background of white snow, and flashing colorful illumination paved streets themselves create a festive mood. Almost every cafe during the Christmas season makes glög, a hot, aromatic alcoholic drink, the Scandinavian version of mulled wine. In the Old Town you can find specially installed for the holiday kiosks where they pour glög.
Glögg (Finnish: Glögi, Swedish: Glögg) is a hot red wine drink with spices, common during the Christmas season in Finland, Sweden, and Estonia. The drink appeared in Sweden and Finland during the late Middle Ages, when cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and orange peels began to be added to low quality wine. In the 16th and 17th centuries, wine flavored with honey and spices was heated and used as a warming drink during the cold season. The original name of the drink was “hippokras”, and the name “glög” the drink got in Sweden at the end of XVIII century. Since 1933 in Finland, ready-made glögg began to be sold in Alko stores.
At the end of the day on December 31 in the city center rattle festive fireworks.
Shopping in Porvoo is enjoyable: there are many good stores in the picturesque Old Town on Jokikatu and Välikatu Streets, and you can shop there while you enjoy the beautiful panorama of Christmas decorations. Dozens of boutiques are located within a few blocks, featuring handmade products, local design, chocolates from local producers, as well as a large selection of souvenirs, clothes, furnishings and home decorations.
However, it is worth remembering that during the Christmas holidays stores operate in a special mode. Although Finnish President Sauli Niinisto has issued a decree allowing stores to operate during the holidays, not everyone is in a hurry to follow it. Pay attention to the holiday shopping schedule:
- 06.12.2016 (Tuesday) Finnish Independence Day (Itsenäisyyspäivä) SHOPS CLOSED;
- 24.12.2016 (Saturday) Christmas Eve (Jouluaatto) Shops are open until 12:00;
- 25.12.2016 (Sunday) Christmas Eve (Joulu) SHOPS CLOSED;
- 26.12.2016 (Monday) Second day of Christmas (Toinen joulupäivä) SHOPS CLOSED;
- 31.12.2016 (Saturday) New Year’s Eve (Uudenvuodenaatto) Stores open until 6:00 pm;
- 01.01.2017 (Sunday) New Year’s Eve (Uudenvuodenpäivä) SHOPS CLOSED;
- 06.01.2017 (Friday) Epiphany (Loppiainen) SHOPS CLOSED.
Don’t forget that on December 27, after Christmas, Christmas sales officially start in Finnish stores! Discounts may reach 50-70%, so do not waste time to combine business with pleasure. Have a great time in the winter holidays in the beautiful town of Porvoo!