Christmas With The Dead


In Finland the heart of Christmas traditions involve remembering the dead. For hundreds of years Finns held fast to the belief that the dead returned to be with their families at sundown on Christmas Eve. It used to be that the traditional visit to the sauna on Christmas Eve was completed by sundown, making room for the dead to enjoy their own time in the steam rooms.

During this time, families all journey to the cemeteries to visit the graves of their loved ones and light candles. An area is set aside for visitors who do not have family interred locally. Here, they are invited to light a candle for their own loved ones who have passed on. The scene is reverent and magical.


Families then return home for a lavish meal of traditional foods. There are few who still practice the old observance of setting out a meal for each visiting ancestor who has returned home. The dead are the honored guests this night and are given the best of food and drink the family has to offer. Once the meal is over, Finnish families would continue to honor their guests by offering up their own beds to ghosts and sleeping on the floor. 


Image credit: Jussi Hellsten

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11 Responses to Christmas With The Dead

  1. Sartenada says:

    This is great post; I love it. Photos are great. There is another way to see the reality of our cemeteries:

    Cemetery in winter.

    Happy blogging!

  2. Loren Rhoads says:

    Thanks so much for this post! I had no idea the dead came home on Christmas Eve, but I love the idea.

  3. Loren Rhoads says:

    Reblogged this on Cemetery Travel: Adventures in Graveyards Around the World and commented:
    I had no idea the dead came home on Christmas Eve, but I love the idea that my brother might have been with us once more.

  4. coastalcrone says:

    Beautiful photos! This tradition makes sense to me. I always think about my parents at Christmas time and remember time with them so they really are with me for the holiday.

  5. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

    This is a perfectly lovely idea!

  6. Jen says:

    Beautiful photos and post — and I learned something new. 🙂

  7. Frau S. says:

    We used to go the old traditional ways in my family (now I am the only one who’s left) which came the whole way from the old Germans into our days, and it was always clear that the ones who had to leave came to us to celebrate. And we used to make the grave nice for the winter and my Mother said always ‘do not forget to take some nice things with you to make the grave beautiful!’ , as nuts or apples. She said it was for looking good, but every time we layed this on the grave she said ‘now they are not alone through the winter, they will have visits of birds or rabbits’. This always was good for me because it was so hard to leave the beloved ones for months and go back home.
    Wonder who will once do this for me since there is nobody left.

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