It never ceases to amaze me how two countries who are geographically so close can be so different. Take the two ex-pat Christmas Fairs I’ve just been to. Yesterday’s Swedish Church was stylish, flash and showy. Set in the genteel part of town in Marylebone, it was where the well-heeled Swedes come to shop for their Christmas goodies.
|Even the flag is smaller than at the Swedish Church…|
The Finnish Church in London, however, is not blessed with a central location. 33 Albion Street, SE19, is only a hop and a skip away from Canada Water, but is stuck on a small high street which has seen better days. The church building, which is new, could be called ugly by someone who is not Finnish by birth. Obviously I, however, tried to see the Aaltoesk properties of the simple 70’s (?) facade…
Inside the church was filled with Finnish goodies. There was someone playing the piano, bringing a tear to my eye with old Finnish Christmas songs. Unlike at the Swedish Church, here the stalls, which were heavily laden with wonderful Fazer goodies, proper dark rye breads, and fantastic old-fashioned straw decorations made in Savolax (to name only a few) were unmanned. There were no friendly Finns in their national costumes (why not – the Finnish ones are by far more beautiful in their simplicity than the Swedish ones?), nor was there a scary Pastor (phew) handing out programmes. The Finns in their infinite efficiency had decided on a supermarket model – at the entrance you were handed a basket and you paid at the tills. A much more sensible solution to the inevitable crowds of ex-pats these events attract, but somehow less romantic.
|I could have bought up the whole of this table.|
|I just love those straw reindeer.|
|I had to take a picture of the ‘Squeaky Cheese’ – I’ve never heard this baked cheese called that!|
|Proper Finnish pastry for Finnish Christmas ‘stars’.|
|I’m afraid I succumbed to Finnish sausage.|
|I know, it’s not good for you, but I just couldn’t resist.|
|Is there a legal issue we’re not aware of?|
One thing the Finns do have is their monopoly on Father Christmas – he does live in Finland after all. And as if by magic, half-way through my shopping expedition, he appeared to the delight of both children and adults alike.
|He was handing out sweets – and it’s not even December yet!|
|Finnish Koskenkorva vodka and liquers.|
Even though the location could be better, I had a wonderful time at the Finnish Church Christmas Fair today and bought far too many things. More about that nearer Christmas!