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Tag: tradition

Of Himmeli-tradition coming to life in Leipzig

“You have reveled my joys and mourned my sorrows, and you have always been there quiet and delicate, when I have needed to contemplate.” 

– Jalmari Sauli / Himmeli: Tales about the nature and children of nature (1928)

I’ve held two of my Himmeli-workshops now and it’s been an absolute wonder. I’m so happy and grateful for the heaps of people interested in Himmelis and Finnish crafts tradition. I did not expect it to be so well received. Furthermore, I’m absolutely impressed by the craft skills my students have had: crafts are definitely not dead! 🙂

And to any new readers: oh, what am I even talking about – what is a Himmeli? Why, it’s a traditional Finnish hanging mobilé ornament and holiday decoration, of course!

Himmelis are tokens, symbols and charms to ensure happiness, riches and a good harvest for the follow year. They were often hung above the dining table before Christmas and stayed out on display until Midsummer and even throughout the year.

Though the name of the ornament is of Germanic origin – in both Swedish and German “himmel” means “sky” or “heaven” – the Himmeli is undoubtedly considered the quintessential traditional Finnish Christmas (Yule) & holiday decoration. However, Himmelis are not strictly tied to any specific event or celebration, and the ornaments were also popular at wedding celebrations (hung above the head of the bride, a ”bride’s crown”), housewarming gifts, as well as decorating many a Midsummer. Last, but by no means least, they also hung above cribs to bless and soothe small children.

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Of making a traditional German Rumtopf

This year, I am finally making a Rumtopf – or a Rumpot, in English. Rommiruukku, in Finnish.

It’s a traditional German fruit preserve/beverage and there are as many variations as there are makers of it. Because you can vary the recipe in so many ways, consider these just overall guidelines.

The Rumtopf has been a culinary classic in the past, but become unfortunately untrendy in the last 10-15 years, though I am hoping for it to make a comeback.

Where did this all begin? Rum imports began in the 18th century. Close to the Danish border, Flensburg was where the West Indies fleet offloaded it’s boozy cargo and, from there, it was transported around Europe. The legend has it, that the rum importing sailors accidentally dropped some fruit into a barrel of rum which quickly developed into a way of transporting exotic fruit back to Europe – and a tradition was born.

Ye Olde way of making this starts in late spring when the first fresh fruit is in season and ends in autumn when the fruit season is ending – typically with pears, or apples or plums and such. However, these days you can probably make it all at once sometime in the middle of summer, when the fruit season is peaking and the ripe fruit times are overlapping. I’m making mine in two steps: I’m still going to add pears later in autumn.

To make a Rumtopf, you will need a large-ish container, depending on how many people you intend to feed with it. Mine is 4 liters and it’s definitely quite large. You can also use a couple of smaller jars, if you don’t want to opt for a big one.

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Of sima and fermenting drinks

Yay! It’s May and it’s time to make some mead! This beautiful fermented nectar – sima (pronounced for English speakers like see-mah) – is traditional to the Finnish 1st of May bacchanals.


One of the BIG FOUR Finnish celebrations in the calendar year, the 1st of May celebration – Vappu (pronounced kinda as vah-poo) – celebrates the spring, Saint Walburg (along the lines of Walburgsnacht) and whathaveyou. Labour movements as well as university students have all alike appropriated this beautiful spring party day.

In Finland, sima  – this often home-made, low-alcohol lemon mead – is one of the most prolific signs of Vappu. It is an important part of my favourite Vappu tradition: the big, even lavish picnics, especially popular in Helsinki.

Other typical things related to Vappu are: carnival-style festivities, all imaginable varieties of alcohol and drinking them aplenty.

While Vappu/Walburgsnacht is of religious origin – for centuries if not millenias have pagan prehistoric Finns been chucking down pints of sima and dancing the night away in the gleaming light of spring bonfires.

While a strong and potent alcoholic beverage in the past, sima of today is kind of a party drink for the whole family due to its low alcohol content. This is my mother’s recipe, that we have used for years and tweaked it a bit to our taste.

Here, I’m going to tell you how to make it – it’s super easy and so tasty!

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