Turku is the oldest city of Finland and its former capital. It was founded in the 13th century and for six hundred years it was the most important and most populated city in the country. Nowadays, Turku remains as a capital for the region of Varsinais-Suomi and is famous for its role as a commercial and cultural centre, as well as for its marked Christmas spirit.
In 1996 Turku was declared the official city of Christmas in Finland. This declaration elevated to the category of national tradition a ritual that the city had been celebrating since the 14th century: every year on Christmas Eve, the Christmas Peace is proclaimed to advise people and animals in the forests to spend the festive period in harmony, to threaten offenders with harsh punishments and to wish all a merry Christmas.
Since 1886, the Christmas Peace declaration is carried out at noon from the wooden balcony of the Brinkkala Mansion. This is a historic building from the 16th century situated in the Old Great Square, now dedicated to host art galleries and exhibitions.
The exact wording of the declaration used during the first centuries of the tradition was lost over time, but its main contents remain the same. Its current form dates back from 1903.
According to folk memory, the ritual was only interrupted during the Russian invasion and occupation of Finland in 1712-1721, between 1809 and 1815, in 1917 when the militia was on strike and in 1939 because of the fear of air attacks.
Christmas Peace Declaration 1965
The declaration of Christmas Peace has been broadcast on the radio since 1935 and on the national television since 1983. Since 1986 it has been broadcast also in Sweden and today it can be followed from anywhere in the world through the internet.
Christmas events 2018
According to the information provided by the City of Turku, this year Christmas celebrations begin with a common great opening weekend on 1-2 December and continue till January 13th, Saint Knut’s Day.
Once again, the most important elements of Finnish Christmas will gather in the city: the Old Great Square Christmas Market, the giant Christmas tree of Turku Cathedral, the Declaration of Christmas Peace plus lots of other Christmas events.
Among those other events, the City of Turku highlights this year the celebration of Ecumenical Christmas at the Turku Cathedral on 12th December. This year the theme is ‘Living in harmony makes room’ and will it emphasise the need to prevent exclusion and inequality.
Turku Cathedral and the giant Christmas Tree. Photo: Timo Jakonen. Source: City of Turku
The humanitarian message will be delivered by the rap artist and author Karri Miettinen, alias Paleface. The ecumenical appeal for peace of Churches will be read by Archbishop Tapio Luoma of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Archbishop Leo of the Orthodox Church, Bishop Teemu Sippo of the Catholic Church and Esko Matikainen, leader of Pentecostal Church.
For more information in English on this event, click HERE
The traditional Christmas market
The city will also offer its inhabitants and tourists a traditional Christmas market at the Old Great Square on the four weekends before Christmas: 24–25 Nov, 1–2 Dec, 8–9 Dec, and 15–16 Dec 2018 at 11–17. Visitors will have the possibility to purchase high-quality handicrafts, Christmas decorations, tasty Christmassy food delicacies or enjoy the winter weather with a cup of warm juice.
There will be also a program of activities for the whole family. It will include music, theatre and circus performances. The guest star of the programme will be Santa Claus and his family, who will also go to the market to delight the children and not-so-children.
The Traditional Christmas Market in Turku. Photo source: City of Turku
The total number of visitors to the Christmas Market at Turku’s Old Great Square was 98.000 in 2017, according to the figures published by the organisers, the Association Turun Suurtorin keskiaika ry.
For more information in English about Turku’s Christmas market, just click HERE
The city will organise also a New Year Celebration on 31 December with a traditional fireworks exhibition at midnight at Samppalinnanmäki. For the children, the New Year Celebration will take place at the Sports Wonderland for Children at Kupittaa Sports Hall at 3 p.m. and fireworks will be shot at 6 p.m.
To read Turku’s whole Christmas 2018 programme in English, click HERE
Free on-street parking
The City of Turku supports the Christmas trade in the centre with two significant campaigns:
Free on-street parking is available in the city centre for the whole month of December.
In addition, on Saturdays adults are allowed to travel by bus for the price of a child’s ticket.