Before the 2012 Christmas indulgence is completely digested and become just a stack of unsorted files in the ‘pics to be sorted’ folder, before our life resumes to the ordinary race against time, I’ll return to a quick snap-shot of Finland where my daughter and I spend all our Christmas holidays in. I’ve only ever had three Christmases outside Finland, which has had the geographical advantage to brand as its own everything that in European Christmas is considered traditionally Christmassy, despite most aspects being cultural imports.
But this doesn’t take away any of the Christmas magic – even less so if the weather is in your favour. Thanks to the climate change (no longer global warming), a few years in a row it has been, and we’ve been enjoying cold and snowy landscapes that must have inspired C.S. Lewis to imagine Narnia.
Having lived in the UK for over a decade, Finland really shows to me as a sort of Narnia. This is a particularly close analogy to my step-dad’s Pentecostal circles where the (tiresome) goodies/baddies rhetoric that mixes pop psychology and war really gets disturbing when (against dining etiquette) talk is on political events. (The political interest of most Finnish evangelicals doesn’t go beyond EU or the Middle East as the study of the Old Testament and the Book of Revelations suffice for both, but this can be infuriating enough).
But if there’s something that really makes me feel like I’ve just returned from a country that exists in the back of a closet, outside the real world, is the level of racism that cuts across the proudly nearly-egalitarian society from the reddest red neck and the educated political elite into one united front of discrimination apologists.
A writer and politician Palestinian born Umayya Abu-Hanna’s recent emigration to Holland sparked so much social-/media hostility that you start to wonder whether the self-declared immigration-critical lot had got the first letter right. Or to be exact, it wasn’t the leaving the country (although bad enough – who would ever be so ungrateful of the Finnish tax system to want to leave?), but the open criticism of society complacent about racism, which she felt threatened the wellbeing of her little daughter. To a sociologist the familiar goodies/baddies reaction to Abu-Hanna’s article in the most popular mainstream newspaper is curious enough, but I read ‘The lottery win that was never claimed’ (in a popular saying being born in Finland is likened to winning in the lottery) with great personal interest, because in my own case, although I – like any other ethnic minority Finn – have experienced my share of such incidents the existence of which the society aggressively denies, the idea of early emigration is merely retrospective speculation between me and my mother (who, incidentally, now lives in Mexico where she enjoys the stares of curious locals). In reality it took nearly twenty years before I packed my bags, but luckily during those two decades I also got three amazing siblings, striking Finnish blondes, creative and talented, never half-sisters or –brother or half-anything to me but of same blood and landscape as me, to whom my difference was that I was older. When we were children they used to gather in my bed and I read to them the entire C.S Lewis series. And they are really the main reason I will always return to Narnia.