Interview by SisterMAG (German)

Out of the ordinary, a German interview! Not all understand German, so I added my original answers & questions below the article! Enjoy!

       1.     Did you grow up in a Nordic country or move there later in life? If you grew up there: how do you remember winters of your childhood? If you moved there: how was adjusting to winter time?

I’ve lived in Southern Finland almost my whole life. Winters in my childhood were wonderful: My father taught me to down hill skiing when I was 4 and our family went cross country skiing very often. Few times a year we travelled to Lapland to experience the winter wonderland, especially during Winter holidays. At my teenage years I was not so keen on leaving home and friends, but my parents were determined. Nowadays it’s us, the children, who ask the parents to go.

Winter was always the toughest time of the year: living outside of the city in the countryside has its pros and cons. Generally, I remember pitch dark days, headlamps attached to helmets while driving through the snow with a mountain bike. No one cleared the roads so sometimes we went to school with skis. I also remember the small slopes we did at a near-by hill, with all the jumps and rails. It was like the winter-long project for all the kids in the local area.

Mornings were super challenging – one couldn’t know if it was 5 am or 7 am, it was just dark and silent. Eating breakfast with my family and preparing for the 5 kilometers to high-school. I remember when the temperature went below -20 celsius, me and my brother wore skiing goggles while driving our bikes, so our eyes would not freeze. I have experienced frost all the way down to -45 celsius degrees, and I know that when it gets super cold, one has to be very conscious about all actions and equipment, especially if there is no shelters or people near by, or if there is no service in the mobile phone. It is definitely not a situation to panic, but to think rationally and act fast.

As I’ve grown up, I find myself looking for more extreme conditions and longer hikes in the wilderness with backcountry skis. Also the life above the Arctic Circle fascinates me, and so I started also my photography from the very North, Norwegian Sea, three years ago in February. This winter I’m going back there to do a video about the whole journey so far.

       2.     Christmas in your country: do you have a favourite tradition and how do you celebrate?

Yes! For a few decades, our whole extended family meets up and celebrates the Christmas. It’s something that I don’t want to lose, even though some times I’m not around. Gathering together at our summer cottage, the tradition includes bathing in the sauna, playing games and eating and drinking, sometimes even singing and making a bonfire. However, it is still not my favourite tradition. Some ten years ago, when the concept of Santa Claus wasn’t anymore a magical superhero for me, I actually started acting a Santa Claus myself! First years I showed up as a Santa in the Christmas for my own very young cousins and neighbour kids, and they all believed I was a real one. I wasn’t wearing any Coca Cola style glitterish bright red coat, instead I was very natural, with carefully chosen costume.

Year after year I did more visits, and even my younger brother and sister came in to the show. Sister started organising roadmaps and timetables for all the families who had ordered us, and acted as a Santa’s little helper. Some Christmas we have done like 15 visits in total, and the families are calling us to come back every year even though the kids are getting older and older. I guess its a really convincing show! The following Christmas will be the first time we are not doing the show anymore, but instead releasing a small documentary video about the tradition. This time we are going North for almost a month.

       3.     Any tips for coping with the cold and dark weather? Do you still go out and face the cold or prefer to snuggle up inside?

My philosophy in the Winter time: “Life starts below -20 celsius.” Yea, the frost, it’s basically one of the things people are diverging from all the time, as the comfortable city-life is so easy. Depending on the goals, getting the proper equipment is necessary, and they might be quite expensive also. My tip is: Keep moving to keep warm, and when you stop, dress up with extra.

       4.     And last but not least: which are your favourite (traditional) winter or Christmas dishes and drinks? 

Haha! I love beer and fish. All the small breweries improving their supply and our Christmas table is served with some special dark Christmas beers. Accompanied with very dark ryemeal bread and smoked salmon and differently seasoned herrings are the best. After a heavy meal, I often boil water and prepare a hot drink called Glögi (I guess its Gluhwine or something). There are several ways to do it, but here’s one: Glögi production starts with boiling the spices in water, adding blackcurrant juice and bright liquor, rum or other alcoholic beverages and almonds. Glögi can also be made with wine. The most common Finnish Glögi spices are carnation, cinnamon and ginger.

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