For many years my Christmas Eve tradition was to go have a big steak dinner after work, then drive around and look at lights. It’s a marked contrast to my life here on Christmas Even 2018. Let me break it down for you.
In the corporate world, I don’t remember a year when I didn’t have to be in the office on the 24th. There was no holiday pay. It was just a regular day. Maybe if business was slow we’d close a little early. Not to be nice to the employees, but to save payroll. Two hours’ pay times 600 employees is a chunk of change.
When I worked at the bookstore I always got door duty. At closing time we’d lock the doors to keep more people from coming in. I had to stand there with the keys so customers could leave when they finished checking out. There were always nasty people who didn’t grasp why I would not let them in. The lights are on! There are people working! I just need one quick thing! No, man. I need to shut this down so my staff can go home. You waiting until the last minute to do your Christmas shopping isn’t my problem. It wasn’t fun.
Going out for steak with friends turned into a “holiday orphans” thing. People who didn’t have family, or folks who couldn’t get out of town to visit their relatives, would come along. It was kind of fun. In retrospect I wish that I’d thrown my business at some mom and pop restaurant that could benefit from the money, rather than the chain we always ended up.
We’d pile into cars and drive around looking at Christmas lights. There was always a local radio station playing holiday music commercial-free. I think they just put the station on autopilot so their air personalities could have time off. Every city seems to have a neighborhood or subdivision where people go completely over the top with lights and decorations. Every house would try to outdo the others. There were often prizes awarded, by whom I’m not sure, but people displayed their 1st place signs or ribbons or whatever in their yards.
Christmas Eve 2018
Here in Finland, Christmas Eve is an official holiday. If anything is open at all, it will probably close at noon. That’s when the Mayor of Turku, the old Finnish capital, will declare the Christmas Peace. It’s a tradition that stretches back to the 1320s. Crimes committed on Christmas face harsher punishments than normal. It’s just a roundabout way of reminding people to be nice.
With everything closed, there’s no steak dinner unless I cook it myself. I’m fine with that, and I actually like it. No one has to work on Christmas Eve. It’s supposed to be quiet time with family. We’re actually just going to have cheese, crackers, and fruit. Probably some glögi. Definitely gingerbread.
Lights really aren’t a thing here. Well, they are, but they’re not the same. White lights go up any time between the equinox in September, when the says get shorter, and the beginning of November when it really starts to get dark. Electric candles in the window are common. Occasionally you might see all blue lights, because Independence Day is also in December. You never see egregious displays of excess here. No giant inflatable snowmen, or life-sized plastic reindeer on the roof.
We’ll likely spend the evening watching Christmas movies. It’s just a quiet, mellow, non-commercial day not infected by rampant consumerism and conspicuous consumption. I love Christmas Even in Finland. This is how holidays are supposed to be spent.