Holiday decorations and Christmas lights are currently truly at their best as Christmas is only a few weeks away. As we do not have any snow in Helsinki yet, the seasonal lights and decorations do bring plenty of sparkle and glow into our grey winter darkness.
This the darkest time of the year in Finland as we have very little day light, only less than 6 hours a day: in Helsinki the sun rises at 9.14 am and sets already at 3.12 pm. No sunshine, just cloudy and rainy. Even if the weather is cold, dark, windy and wet I decided to venture out in search of Christmas spirit and illumination in Helsinki city centre.
Christmas season in Helsinki, the capital of Finland, traditionally begins in late November when the festive holiday lights are switched on along the Christmas Street of Aleksanterinkatu, the main shopping street in the heart of the city. This year the lights were turned on for the 67th year in a row. Originally it was the shopkeepers of Aleksanterinkatu who initiated the tradition back in 1949 in order to bring light and hope to residents, who were recovering from the war.
Every year I tend to go for a walk in Helsinki city centre just to see the lights on the Christmas Street. And doesn’t it look pretty? Nothing over the top like in many other cities, but just pretty and small-scale like everything in Finland.
Passing by Stockmann department store at the start of the Christmas Street is always a pleasure this time of the year. The facade by the main entrance is decorated with plenty of festive lights and a huge Christmas present wrapped in colourful paper. The same theme continues inside the department store.
Every year Stockmann also puts a lot of effort on their Christmas window displays. So much fun for adults and children alike! The window displays in the corner of streets Aleksanterinkatu and Keskuskatu are definitely a must-see and gathers huge crowds. This is a long tradition and I can clearly remember being totally thrilled about the magical displays when I was a child.
The abundance of Christmas markets and fairs bring plenty of light and joy into the city. St. Thomas Christmas Market (Tuomaan markkinat) at Senate Square is my absolute favourite. Here you can shop local products and enjoy seasonal food under the atmospheric lights while admiring the stunning Helsinki Cathedral and the tall Christmas tree in the middle of the square. Or why not take a ride on the merry-go-round.
At Esplanade Park you will get to see beautiful light displays as 100.000 leds has been set up in trees and lampposts. By the statue of J. L. Runeberg, the national poet of Finland, you will meet golden shiny reindeer and glowing Christmas trees.
Do not miss the stage at Esplanade Park. It has been transformed into a Christmas Light Calendar, a glowing light cube by Galleria Kandela. The cube reveals a new work of light art every day.
The National Museum of Finland has set up a sparkly Christmas tree forest in the museum’s courtyard. 60 trees have been decorated by volunteers and tell about the dreams and thoughts of their makers.
Many city centre shopping centres such as Forum and Kamppi also host beautiful seasonal lights and Christmas decoration displays worth seeing!
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