12 ways Finnish Christmas loneliness can eat you alive

Aleksanterinkatu Christmas lights in Helsinki

Christmas, at least in Finland, is supposed to be a lot of things: family festivities to contrast almost constant darkness. Gifts, rituals, traditions, journeys to home towns.

Everyone isn’t able to go with that flow. Not everyone wants it either.

However, Finnish society shuts down around Christmas, whether you have people to be with or not. So, if you know someone who might want company around Christmas, it’s probably not a bad idea to invite them to some part of your festivities. Loneliness is massive public health problem.

Mental health crisis center hotline, Finland

If you’re on the side of waiting out Christmas and things get really gnarly, please be in touch with the crisis hotline of the Finnish Association of Mental Health.

We think this topic is serious: If you have suggestions and helpful tips on things to do during Christmas, let everyone know in the comments down below.


1. As a kid, you’re supposed to be surrounded by enough food, smells, traditions and relatives to feel nostalgia at age 20.



2. That’s because of Christmas Eve, December 24th, when almost all services in Finland close down in the afternoon.


3. Next up: days of family time, mostly secular. Dinner after dinner.

Traditional Finnish Christmas dinner

Photo by Jonas Forth.


4. Don’t have a functional family? That’s probably something you have in common with a lot of people close by, whom you’ve never spoken to.

Finnish apartment block staircase in Punavuori, Helsinki. One of the doors has a traditional Christmas decoration.

Photo by Rasmus Sten


5. You feel fine though.

Smiling monkey plush toy sitting on bed, looking lonely.

Photo by Juho Holmi.


6. If you don’t, you might prefer to escape the country rather than face Christmas alone.




7. If you stay, you’re lucky if you catch a few glimpses of sun each day, in cities and suburbs that look almost abandoned.


8. Mostly, it looks like this


9. Sure, it’s sorta funny to imagine millions of people as alien abduction cultists when they’re waiting for Santa.



10. But it gets old fast.


11. Luckily, parts of Finland have a decent network of kebab and pizza restaurants with holiday defying opening hours.


12. And at least there’s the week after New Year’s Day. Nothing changes, except for a decrease in Christmas decorations.

This post was inspired in part by author Lilja Tamminen’s short, 2011 essay on the fallout of holiday loneliness in a world that keeps clinging to nuclear family ideals. It’s really worth a read, if you understand Finnish.

If you have ideas on how to tackle holiday loneliness, please let’s hear it in the comments below.

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Title photo by Antti T. Nissinen.

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