Katherine Wilson

Katherine Wilson

Graduate Student Grantee 2006-2007

Christmas in Finland: The celebration of Christmas starts early in Finland, with Christmas markets, festive lights in the streets, Pikka Joulu or "Little Christmas" parties, and special Christmas foods and drinks including the traditional Glogi, which is a spicy hot mulled wine. I was lucky to be able to celebrate the entire Christmas season in Helsinki with my family, who came over from America. We visited the Christmas markets, including the St.Thomas Market on the Esplanaadi and the indoor market in the old Student Hall. These markets include many hand-made crafts and foods that can be given as gifts. On Christmas Eve, Finns pay homage to their ancestors with a visit to the cemetery where candles are placed on the graves. Although somber, it is quite a spectacular scene, with the candlelight illuminating large areas of the dark and cold evening. On Christmas day, we took in the traditional Christmas Concert of choral music at the Helsinki Cathedral with the President in attendance amidst the huge crowd of Finns.

Scale of the City: From the beginning of my acquaintance with it, I have been struck by the human scale of the city of Helsinki, both in its built form and its cultural venues. The architecture, with its low building heights and many well-crafted designs, creates a built environment that is approachable and accessible while still possessing the variety appropriate to a vibrant city. The abundance of parks and lakes conveys a spaciousness that allows continuous contact with nature, which is not possible in many urban environments. There are enough cultural events such as first-rate opera productions and symphony concerts as well as numerous different types of art museums to keep the city exciting while still retaining the advantages of a small town or village.

Riding Public Transport: The public transportation system in Finland is excellent. It has its own website that tells how to get to any destination. Moreover, the site indicates the exact arrival time and transfer time of the bus/subway/tram. In the colder weather, not having to wait long for the bus or tram is a blessing. Riding trams or buses during the winter is also an enjoyable way to learn more about the city's layout and architecture while remaining warm. Commuting on a daily basis to the Helsinki University of Technology in Espoo, I necessarily spend a fair amount of time on public transport enjoying the scenery and getting to study some of the fascinating characters to be found riding about the city.