Cheerful Christmas carols echo on the Inspehtorinkatu street at the heart of the Student Village. The singers turn out to be a group of students walking towards the campus and the city centre, perhaps on their way to a Christmas party. The residents of the largest student area of Turku, the official Christmas City of Finland, are preparing for the holidays in many different ways.
Reea Viitasalo from Nummenranta is about to submit the last essays and take the last exams before the winter break. However, there is time for holiday spirit even in the middle of her studies.
“Preparing for the holidays means pausing in the middle of your everyday routines and doing little things that are out of the ordinary, like visiting the Christmas market or a going to a Christmas party. In December, I make porridge out of rice instead of oat, and I eat chocolates from my advent calendar instead of candy. You can also see my excitement for Christmas in my home. I’m a heavy user of decorative lights and candles – it’s especially apparent in the holiday season. I start listening to Christmas songs in November, and I also watch the Christmas episodes of Glee,” Reea says, describing her holiday preparations.
Tomi Peltonen lives in Student Village East with his children aged 4 and 8. He tries to visit the Christmas market with his whole family. They also make small-scale Christmas preparations at home.
“We put string lights around a tree in the backyard; the kids love that. We also try to visit the Christmas market and other events with the kids without any specific plans,” Tomi says.
As the holidays draw closer, the Student Village will be emptier with many students travelling back home. Reea says she and her partner, as well as their dog and cats, will travel to Uusikaupunki to see Reea’s family. There, they will celebrate Christmas the traditional way.
”It’s nice to see family and spend time together during the holidays. On Christmas Eve, we eat rice porridge in the morning, watch The Snowman, take a walk and go to church. In the evening, we go to sauna, enjoy a festive meal and exchange presents. On Christmas Day, we often have dinner with the grandparents and meet some of our other relatives,” Reea describes her holiday routine.
However, the Student Village won’t be completely empty, since many tenants are celebrating the holidays at their student apartment. Like every year, the saunas at the housing locations will be heated for the tenants on Christmas Eve. Many windows in the Village are decorated with shining lights. Tomi celebrates Christmas with his family in the Student Village. His children will open their presents exceptionally on Christmas Day.
”The kids usually visit their grandparents on Christmas Eve, and then we spend Christmas Day at home. I guess it’s our tradition that we open presents on Christmas Day, and not on Christmas Eve like people usually do in Finland. Though the kids still get gifts at their grandparents’. We have dedicated Christmas Eve for visiting relatives, so we don’t really have any special festivities at home,” Tomi says.
Many tenants return to the Student Village for New Year’s celebrations. Glasses will surely clink in the common rooms as people toast for an even better year.
“Often, I come back to Turku around Boxing Day. We’ll have a sparkling New Year in Turku with friends. We’re holding a movie- and TV-themed costume party at home. We’ll celebrate the past year and look forward to the next one,” Reea says.
Tomi and his family will also spend New Year in the Student Village. Last year, the family participated in the New Year’s celebrations organised by the local Tenant Committee.
“The kids don’t care for the loud fireworks, so we’ll stay inside when the loudest noise starts and watch videos of fireworks instead,” Tomi says.
Communications Coordinator, TYS