So it's 2013 and it looks like we're still here. The Mayans were wrong, so let's celebrate! And that's exactly what I did last night. Allow me to take you on a directed tour of a suburban Finnish New Year's celebration. And note that I only say suburban because the neighborhood is only about ten minutes from the town center. Don't mistake "suburban" for "densely populated". Anywhere in the U.S., this would easily qualify as a rural neighborhood.
Preparing for New Year's here involves buying three things: fireworks and alcohol and lots of food. On the morning of New Year's Eve, I went with Kaisa's family into the town of Varkaus, and we picked up all three. By far the most interesting was the fireworks: the fireworks stand we chose to buy from was inside a Toyota dealership, and manned by a pair of enthusiastic young men. When I asked why it was in a Toyota dealership, it was explained to me that the fireworks booths are always located somewhere with sufficient open space and incentive to host them. This year, one such location happened to be the Toyota dealership. Fireworks available ranged from €1.50 Thunder Kings to a €99.50 Army Box. We left the dealership with two bags stuffed full of miscellaneous fireworks.
After the fireworks, it was time to stock up on drinks. Any drink greater than 44 proof (22% alcohol by volume) can only be sold by the publicly-owned Alko shops. There, Kaisa's father picked up a variety of things, and Kaisa and I bought a bottle of Salmiakki vodka, Minttu peppermint vodka, and some Conways Country Irish Cream. The Salmiakki is by far the most interesting of the bunch. Salmiakki is a Finnish candy that tastes like salty black licorice. As an alcoholic beverage it's certainly...strange, but I liked it.
Then was a trip to the grocery store, and then home. A few hours later, we went to visit Raimo and Marjo, Kaisa's parents' neighbors, for the night. As soon as we arrived, it was decided that we would set off some preliminary fireworks, eat some food, then move on to the main event. As I arrived at the firing ground, Kaisa's father Reima brandished what looked like a large coffee can at me and explained that I after I lit the fuse, I would have 5 seconds to run 50 meters (150 feet) to safety. He also explained that Jamaican gold medalist Usain Bolt can only run 100 meters in 9 seconds--in short, what he'd asked of me was impossible. I grinned and said that I knew and asked if we were ready. He nodded, so I flipped down my safety glasses, knelt down, lit the fuse and ran. My hat flew off, but true to my agreement with Reima, I kept running. I'd made it maybe 15 meters before the fireworks began exploding. I judged that I was far enough and turned to watch.
And I found this!
After a bit more of this, we returned indoors to eat. Upon entering, I sat down at the table to a sort of after-dinner meal, and was informed that Raimo had prepared the glass in front of me. I eyed it skeptically before shrugging and taking a swig. I looked up to find the entire table staring expectantly. I grinned and exclaimed "Ah! Salmiakki! On hyvää!" ("It's good!") to the apparent delight of everybody at the table. Over the course of dinner, Raimo held his glass up to me with a cheerful "Kippis!" ("Cheers!") no less than four times. After dinner was complete, we returned outdoors to continue our explosive revelry.
Despite speaking scarcely a word of Finnish, I made fast friends of Raimo's 7-year-old grandson after I allowed him to teach me how to light the fireworks.
I greatly enjoyed my lessons in pyromania.
And I wasn't the only one setting off dangerous explosives.
Kaisa got involved too!
After exhausting our store of fireworks, we retreated inside Raimo's kota (a little hut with a fire pit in the center and seating around the outside) and began trying to see our futures in melted tin (something I alluded to in a post last year). We had forgotten to pick any up tin horseshoes at the store earlier in the day, but Raimo's grandson was there to save us. He had a little bag of tin horseshoes, and we wasted no time melting those over the kota's fire.
Raimo's grandson pulling his flash-solidified tin from the bucket of water.
The tin is melted over a fire, and then once liquefied, it's poured into a bucket of water. After being given a moment to cool, it's pulled out...
My tin. DE CLAWWWW
...and the shapes are interpreted according to some guidelines I'm not entirely clear on.
Conclusion: Adorableness is in my future!
Happy 2013, everybody!