In Finnish, unlike in many European languages, names of the months have been preserved in their original form. The only recent loan word is ‘joulukuu’ (December), which comes from the ancient Scandinavian ‘jól’ which is the same as ‘jul’ in modern Swedish. Until the 1600’s or 1700’s December was called ‘talvikuu’ (winter month) in Finnish, but the name was changed after Christmas (joulu) replaced kekri in popularity and became the most important feast of the year.
The three-week joulu began in the latter half of December. For people joulu was a celebration of joy, light and remembering loved ones, which brought health, vitality and well-being for the whole year. During joulu people went to the sauna, spent good time together, ate well and remembered the guardian spirits, ancestors and domestic animals. The festive season lasted from Tuomas’ Day (December 21) to Nuutti’s Day (January 13).
Long-term winter weather predictions were usually not done in December. Yet people aimed to forecast short-term weather changes, because they were important when travelling or doing everyday work. People considered mild thaw to be the most pleasant weather. On that kind of weather, the sledge was light to pull, homes heated well and farm animals could be fed with ease.
It was said that little birds predict snowfall. If a bird knocked on the window, there would soon be snow. Snow was also predicted by tits singing, birds swarming close to the house and black grouses gathering on the ice. In addition, before snowfall there was an additional streak between the rabbit tracks and the ice on great lakes and sea made a ‘howling’ noise.
Weather was going to turn cold, when shingles burned with a cracking sound and fell apart, or when scattering snowflakes flew slowly down from the skies during mild weather. Tightening of the frost was signalised by bangs coming from the walls in cold rooms or from trees in the forest. Signs of incoming frost also included bright Milky Way, the creaking of snow under a shoe or sledge and a cat that fled on top of the warm oven.
Croaking of crows or ravens, in turn, indicated that the weather was getting milder. In this case the cat came down from the oven and horse could be found lying down in the barn. In addition, the coming of mild weather could be seen in a forest that turned ‘darker’ or became covered with hoarfrost.
Translation: Anssi A.
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This is a repost of posts put up by the Suomenusko Facebook group, to keep them preserved in a searchable place.