Ahead of the holidays, AZ Freiamt shows how Freiamter celebrate Christmas abroad. 31-year-old Gabriela Strebel from Buttwil spends her first Christmas in akaslompolo in Finnish Lapland.
"I only wished for my parents for Christmas": How Freiamter celebrate Christmas abroad (14.12.2020)
The most incredible thing, he says, are the northern lights. "I still can’t believe it: You’re just driving home normally, and all of a sudden they light up in the sky," describes Gabriela Strebel. You can hear in her voice how magical these moments are for her. "Every time we stop and watch them for a while. I think they are always a spectacle for Finns as well." Exactly today, on the 15th. December, the young Buttwil native celebrates her 31st birthday. Birthday. "’Syntymapaiva’ means birthday in Finnish," she says laughing via video phone. She has to admit: "I can’t say much more in Finnish yet. It is an incredibly difficult language. But for that, most Finns speak English very well."
On 16. November, just a month ago, Strebel emigrated to Finnish Lapland. She has yet to experience a Christmas in the far north. And nevertheless the Weihnachtsstimmung is there already now something completely special. "Especially the small arches of lights that shine behind almost every window here, I find very beautiful."
No wonder they catch her eye especially, because she says, "Right now it doesn’t get light until about 10, half past 11 in the morning and it’s dark again by 3 p.m."The small apartment she shares with her boyfriend Antti is all the more cozy for it. Of course, they couldn’t do without their own sauna. And in the summer, the midnight sun compensates for the long winter.
She just wanted to relax and found love
But how does a young Freiamter come to emigrate to the harsh, icy north?? For love, of course. Yet it all began with two strokes of fate. "2018 was a tough year for my family and me," the trained biology lab technician, who worked in forensic medicine for three years, begins to recount. "My father had a cerebral hemorrhage, the same year my grandmother had a stroke.
That was also very difficult for me. That’s when a good friend and I thought we should just have a nice winter vacation now."So the two women rented a log cabin in the middle of nowhere in Finland, in akaslompolo. "We just wanted to be there, reading, drinking tea and wine, taking a sauna and having a good time." But then the adventurous Swiss women decided to join a guided group that went ice fishing on snowmobiles. "And the guide was Antti," Strebel tells happily.
From then on, the two of them saw each other almost every evening. "At the end of the vacation, he told me he would call me every day. I said ‘yes yes’ because I thought he wasn’t going to do it anyway." But the Finn in love did just that: every single day he called her. A month later he came to visit her in Switzerland, although it was high season in the tourism industry at his employer ‘Destination Lapland’ in akaslompolo. In the summer he came again, this time by car, and immediately for half a year. Longer visits to Switzerland and Finland alternated. "Then a year ago we thought about what to do next. He could not imagine living in Switzerland. I, on the other hand, could already imagine a life in Lapland."No sooner said than done, the Buttwil resident now lives in Finland.
Cross-country skiing, snowshoe tours, snowmobiling and ice fishing
"What strikes me most here is the nature," says Gabriela Strebel. "I have always enjoyed hiking in the Swiss mountains. Up here there are more hills than mountains. But the vast forests are right on their doorstep." People are doing more outside. "I’ve started cross-country skiing, we go on snowshoe hikes, and of course we like to ride snowmobiles," says the young woman, whose father raced motocross for a long time, while her brother and she stood on the edge of the slopes and cheered.
"I’m not so good at ice fishing yet, but it’s still fun," she says with a laugh. Her hobby, which she had practiced in Switzerland for years, was pottery. "Up here I haven’t found a place for it yet."But one should still have dreams: "Someday we would like to buy a house. We would then set up a pottery room with a wheel and kiln for me," she says with shining eyes.
Many Swiss tourists – ideal for a young Swiss woman
With the work it is unfortunately still somewhat difficult. "In winter there are a lot of tourists here, the place lives completely from them. And about 60 percent of the tourists are Swiss. That’s why Antti’s boss said from the beginning that I would have no problems finding a job here." But because of Corona, the tourists are not coming at the moment. "Now I go cleaning one day a week and will apply for a job in a laboratory in the nearby coal mines". And as soon as the schools are open again, I also want to take a Finnish course."
The fact that the tourists are missing, however, also has a nice side: "Antti has never been able to celebrate Christmas at home for years, because many tourists want to go on a Northern Lights safari," reports Gabriela Strebel. "This year it could finally work out with the Christmas party again."
Here Santa Claus brings the presents
In Finland, Santa Claus brings the presents for Christmas in his reindeer sleigh. "He puts them like the Christ Child under the Christmas tree, which also looks like in Switzerland. Then you eat well, but there is no special Christmas dinner, says Antti. Roast pork and, of course, cranberry jelly were always on the menu when he was young. But it’s different in every family."
But Strebel’s had a Christmas tradition: "I always celebrated at my parents’ house. We went to the church in Beinwil and ate fondue chinoise afterwards. That never happened before, so we always looked forward to it very much. Later, when I lived in Boswil, we first ate at my parents’ house and then walked to Boswil for midnight mass. I always thought that was very nice."But basically there was only one thing she wanted to bring back from Switzerland for a perfect Christmas: "I really only wanted my parents for Christmas. But that is not possible at the moment."They would like to visit her again, however, as soon as the Corona situation allows it, the New Laplander says happily.