I'm excited to be hosting special guests for the next several Wednesdays! Please join me in welcoming Marion Ueckermann!
DREAMING OF A WHITE CHRISTMAS ~
For eight months, hubby and I had been planning a trip to Budapest and Finland to visit my son, Kyle, and his wife, Tiia. I’d finally have a white Christmas and experience the flipside of the location of my novelette, Helsinki Sunrise, which takes place during a Finnish summer. We’d have snowball fights, build snowmen, and experience Christmas the Finnish way. How different this would all be to the mid-summer South African Christmases. You can therefore imagine my disappointment when Kyle sent this photograph two days before our departure.
What? No snow? I quickly changed the tune I’d been singing from I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas to Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow. “Don’t panic,” I told myself, “first stop is Budapest—there’s still a week before we get to Finland.”
After six fun-filled days in Budapest, we flew to Helsinki, arriving at midnight. Little snow could be seen. Only a tiny patch here and there. Sigh…
As Finland was having a ‘warm’ winter with temperatures only just below freezing and not way below freezing, Tiia decided we’d go directly to Lapland, home of Santa Claus, and spend a few days there before heading back south to her parents for Christmas and New Year.
We had barely reached the outskirts of Helsinki when snowflakes began to fall. It snowed the entire ten hour journey to Lapland. By the time we reached our cottage in the middle of nowhere, we had SNOW! Thick, glorious snow!
Lapland was fabulous. We were introduced to Glögi—a warm, spiced, fruity drink. One word—yummy! We took walks in the snow and managed to make a snowman, even though the snow wasn’t snowman-making snow. But we knew little then about the different textures of snow. There were times, though, when I doubted the white shapes on the ground would become a snowman—they looked more like some anemic form of African art. With the help of a pot of water, it all came together, and we had a snowman which we named Olaf. Yes, I know, not very original, but my grandson had to relate.
We had hoped to see the Northern Lights while in Lapland, but weren’t that fortunate. We did see another Christmas skies phenomenon, although this one hadn’t taken to the heavens yet. When a friend saw this photograph on my Facebook banner, she said, “…you look like a little girl who can't believe she’s meeting Santa.” To be honest, I actually felt like that, and at fifty-four, it was still a great feeling.
With my Santa list delivered direct to the man in red, and the sights, smells, sounds, tastes and touch of Christmas filling our senses, we couldn’t wait to experience a Finnish Christmas with Tiia’s family in Lehtimäki, about halfway between Santa’s hometown, Rovaneimi, in the north and Helsinki in the south.
When December dawns in South Africa, our fake Christmas tree is dusted, clipped together and decorated; Christmas stockings are hung; and the front door’s adorned with the beautiful wreath we’d bought over a decade ago in Ireland. However, except for the abundance of outdoor Christmas lights hanging on houses, trees, bushes…anywhere…everywhere…sparkling against the snow, it didn’t look anything like Christmas indoors when we arrived in Lehtimäki and it was already December 21.
Two days later, while out walking in the snow and on the frozen lake with Tiia’s family, her dad pointed out a small tree growing close to the river near their house. Excited, he said something unintelligible to us.
“Our Christmas tree for this year,” Tiia translated. “We’ll cut it down later.”
Noel and I couldn’t wait. Neither could Kyle. He was so anxious for us to experience the new culture he’d married into.
Noel and Kyle were given the honor of cutting the tree. It stood outside overnight and was placed on its stand in the lounge the next day—Christmas Eve. Then the decorating began and we all added a little. Despite the fact it seemed such a small tree when rooted in the snow, I was surprised when the top touched the roof.
Christmas dinner was big, like at home, except where we always cook turkey and gammon, in Finland we had the biggest leg of cooked ham I’d ever seen. But, families are big in Finland. There must have been at least twenty-four with children for Christmas dinner (and that didn’t include all the family).
After dinner we sat in the lounge beside the tree and sang songs while Kyle played the saxophone. Tiia’s father then gave a short sermon in Finnish, translated by his daughters for the non-Finnish speakers (and that included some other sons-in-law, too). One of the teens read the Christmas story from the Bible—a Finnish tradition. After all the gifts were opened, a lot of which were home-made (a tradition we really liked), each person had to tell what they’d received and from whom.
We will definitely implement a lot of new things to Christmas 2015.
Our first white Christmas was one that will stay in our memories forever. But as much as we had so many awesome experiences in Finland and Budapest, two of my favorites were:
- opening the box of author order only print copies of my first novelette, Helsinki Sunrise, that I had delivered to Finland so I could give a copy to each of Tiia’s siblings and her parents for Christmas gifts (after all, it’s my son and their daughter/sister on the cover);
- and being greeted at the airport by these two little faces when we returned to South Africa.
What are some of your favorite Christmas memories?
Marion, I loved reading of your experience in Finland! I'm used to snow at Christmas, but when we don't get it, it's always a bit sad. I'm sure the traditions and special time you spent with Kyle and Tiia's family will stay in your heart forever. Congratulations on your new release and thank you for being my guest!!
Helsinki Sunrise ~
He needed the island to himself. So did she.
Three weeks alone at a friend’s summer cottage on a Finnish lake to fast and pray. That was Adam Carter's plan. But sometimes plans go awry.
On an impromptu trip to her family's secluded summer cottage, the last thing Eveliina Mikkola expected to find was a missionary from the other side of the world—in her sauna.
Determined to stay, Eveliina will do whatever it takes—from shortcrust pastry to shorts—to send the man of God packing. This island’s too small for them both.
Adam Carter, however, is not about to leave.
Will he be able to resist her temptations?
Can she withstand his prayers?
Helsinki Sunrise is available to purchase from Pelican Book Group, Christianbook.com, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.
Watch the Helsinki Sunrise book trailer on YouTube.
Watch the Passport to Romance book trailer on YouTube.
About Marion ~
Marion Ueckermann’s passion for writing was sparked in 2001 when she moved to Ireland with her husband and two sons. Since then she has published devotional articles and stories in Winners, The One Year Devotional of Joy and Laughter (Tyndale House Publishers), Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miraculous Messages from Heaven, and her debut novelette, Helsinki Sunrise (White Rose Publishing, a Pelican Book Group imprint, Passport to Romance series). Her second Passport to Romance, Oslo Overtures, will be published in 2015.
Marion blogs for International Christian Fiction Writers and Beauty for Ashes. She belongs to Christian Writers of South Africa and American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives in Pretoria East, South Africa in an empty nest with her husband and their crazy black Scottie, Wally.
Permission to use images obtained.
I always love reading about how other people celebrate holidays. Let's go back to Marion's question--
What are some of your favorite memories?
Thanks so much for stopping by!