Tuesday, 27 December 2016

A Finnish New Year's Eve Tradition

In the end of last year, I entertained you with a post about a rather grim tradition that the Nordic countries used to have close to Christmas time: Nuuttipukki. Now I am going to write about a tradition that is still alive and kicking, and is performed on the New Year's Eve.

The tradition is called a New Year's Tin and it is a way to try to predict the future. Finns have been doing this since the 18th century at least, but this form of fortunetelling was already known in the Ancient Rome. Nowadays it is harmless fun that people in the Nordic countries do. This custom is also known in Germany and in Austria.

What you need

  • Tins shaped like a tiny horse shoe (it's actually a concoction of tin and lead to get a lower melting point, and the horse shoe signifies good luck). The diameter of a horse shoe is about 4 cm (1,6 inches) long.
  • A scoop designed for this thing
  • A stove or a fireplace
  • A bucket filled with cool water
  • A candle or a flashlight (optional, any good source of light will do)
Notice: Some induction stoves do not recognise such a small scoop and for that reason I am going to demonstrate this tradition with a fireplace. Remember always to be extra careful when you are close to an open fire!

How to do it

Put the tin into a small scoop. Then put the scoop on a hot stove or to the hot fireplace until the tin is melted.

Then, you flip the melted tin into the water bucket. The water level needs to be deep enough so that the tin has time to freeze into a shape before it hits the bottom of the bucket! Otherwise you all get a pancake shaped future.
Every participant has her/his own tin. The one whose future is about to be told must be the one who flips the melted tin into the water.

Pick the tin from the water and now you are ready to find out what the coming year will bring to you!
You examine both the tin and the shadow it casts. This is what you might need the candle or a flashlight for: you hold your tin close to a wall and point a flashlight to it. Then you can examine the shadow more easily.
That's not my hand, btw. It's my lovely assistant (read: a close relative).
We photographed these when I was visiting my family on Christmas.
This is a bit like trying to understand one's dreams: things symbolise different stuff for different people. Still, here are some traditional interpretations:
  • A ship or a plane means a travel.
  • A bird is a sign of good luck.
  • A crown or a key means success in your work.
  • A ring will mean a wedding (not yours, necessarily).
  • If the tin broke down into several small pieces, you'll be having a troublesome year.
  • If there are blackened parts on the tin, it means bad luck and/or sorrows.
  • If there is a lot of "scruffiness" in it, it means you'll get a lot of money.
The "scruffiness" is that not so shiny part on the upper part of the tin. I do not know what to call it. :) As you can see from the previous photo, this tin's shadow looks a bit like a wolf. I have no idea how to interpret that. But that doesn't really matter, because this tin was not made on a New Year's Eve, so it's not valid for predicting the future.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Happy holidays!

We are having a lovely and warm family Christmas this year.
Christmas decorations that reminded me of the Alien movies.
An Advent Calendar is a very imprortant part of the Nordic Christmas traditions.
More rather modern decorations. 
Some fluffy decorations. In the middle is a sort of a Santa's elf and those other two are reindeer.
Finally: a genuine Christmas tree.

Happy Yule & Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Creepy Reads Review: Flavia de Luce Murder Mystery Novels

In the last Creepy Reads Review of this year I would like to feature murder mystery novels by Alan Bradley. Just like Agatha Christie had her Poirot novels, Bradley has Flavia de Luce novels.

As usual, I am not going into the details of the plot nor am I going to reveal who the murderer is. ;)

The intended audience of the novels 

The main character Flavia de Luce is 11 years old and she loves chemistry, poisons, and solving murders. She lives with her eccentric father and two older sisters in the (almost ruins of a) mansion in the countryside of England, in the 1950's. This produces an intriguing mix for various audiences:

  • retro fans
  • Agatha Christie fans
  • other murder mystery fans too
  • people interested in historical depictions of the years just after the Second World War
  • the age of the reader can be anything from about 8 years to 100 years because the main character is a precocious girl with a witty sense of humor
  • last but not least: gothically inclined readers, because the main character Flavia and her family has some similarity with the Addams family and the Munsters. They are not vampires or anything, but their family relations and Flavia's interest to chemistry and poisons and murder do bring some very goth-y undertones to these novels

Witty and funny narrator

The language of these novels is very enjoyable. The narration of Flavia is smooth, her jokes are funny, and sometimes she has a very cynical and mature way of reflecting the world. Sometimes it's so mature that some readers might think her as an implausible character. One might doubt an 11 years old girl could make such analytical notions of the people around her.

But, she does come from a different world than we, the readers. She has lived and is still living some very hard times, just after the Second World War. It is also noted that she is not your average child but has a passion for science and a very analytical mind.
The first Flavia de Luce novel.

Not really a series

Each of the Flavia de Luce novels can be read as an individual, even though they do form a not so tight continuum. I actually do not recommend you to read them one straight after another, because of that. Since each is an individual, they have some repetition: in each novel the narrator must explain her family situation (and some other things too) again and again. It can be rather boring. But, if you read these books with enough time between them (at least a couple of months), they are very entertaining.

Final conclusions

I enjoyed reading the Flavia de Luce novels very much. Though maybe the first two (The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie & The Weed that strings the Hangman's Bag) were a tad better than the rest of them. Partly because in the later novels the family relations of Flavia get more space. I do not find her family relations interesting mainly because of one reason.

Flavia's sisters are quite horrible to her and hence she as the narrator doesn't depict the sisters (nor other members of the family) in an emphatic way. Thus the reader gets a rather resentful picture of them. For me this resentment results in the way that I do not care for the characters, and I am not interested of what happens to them. So, I find those parts that depict Flavia's family and their problems a bit dull.

Luckily there are other characters, not just sisters and aunts and fathers. The character of the local inspector Hewitt is very interesting and has multiple layers. The dialogues between him and Flavia are superb.

A list of the Flavia de Luce novels can be found via Goodreads, for example.