Sunday, December 21, 2014

Kauneimmat joululaulut -oh dear!

In Finland we have this thing called Kauneimmat joululaulut. It refers to a Finnish custom; people gather in churches around Christmas time to sing or to listen to the kauneimmat joululaulut, i.e. the most beautiful Christmas carols. I like Christmas, but I never attend these concerts. Why? Because I don't want to become depressed and miserable.

You see, Finnish Christmas carols (or the Christmas carols sung in Finland) are extremely sad and depressing. Many people call them solemn; I just call them sad and depressing. The melody is in the minor, and the lyrics are usually melancholic (to say the least). Life is awful and miserable, little children die, people are alone, birds are left without any food etc. How nice! Somehow I thought that the birth of Christ was supposed to be a joyous occasion, and hence, Christmas a happy holiday ...?

Of course, there are also Christmas carols sung in Finland that are more cheerful, but unfortunately, I don't like them either. The problem with these songs are that they go to the other end of the spectrum: they are just too cheerful! Christmas carols like Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer (yes, we do have it in Finnish as well..) or Kilisee, kilisee, kulkunen are such jingles that I have a hard time believing that anyone would actually like them.

Okay, I'm trying to stop whining now. Actually, there are Christmas carols that I like very much; they are just not sung in Finland. I think that the English-speaking countries have succeeded in this field a lot better than we have: there are many English Christmas carols that make you feel like Christmas without sounding like muzak or making you feel miserable.  White Christmas, The First Noël, The Twelve Days of Christmas and Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow fit into this category just fine, in my opinion. So, instead of attending a Kauneimmat joululaulut in our church, I'll listen to my A White Christmas By Bing Crosby and Friends -CD and enjoy my kinds of Christmas carols.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 03, 2014


Just like hundreds of thousands of people in Finland, I've also been watching the extremely popular TV-series Putous. It is a live entertainment show that combines pre-rehearsed comic sketches, improvisation, different tasks the actors are given, and most importantly, a vote for the best comic character of the year. There are eight characters at the beginning of each season, and every week one character is voted out.

Putous has now been running for several seasons, and I've noticed one common thing about many of  the comic characters that have been victorious or done really well in the show. It is that they have been characters where a woman has been dressed up as a man or vice versa. This year a clear front runner (and who eventually became second) was a character called Kissi Vähähiilari, a male actor dressed up as  a woman working out for a fitness competition.

Kissi Vähähiilari, a fitness-babe

I've been thinking about this phenomenon, and naturally the gorgeous film Some like it hot came to mind. The contrast between Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis' fake-feminine and Marilyn Monroe's ultra-feminine looks is evident, and Lemmon and Curtis show their talents in making their characters seem too masculine to really pass for women. I suppose this view is starting to be a bit old these days; today people don't necessarily want to see clumsy or awkward attempts of a female actress trying to look like a man or a male actor trying to look like a woman. These days people want to experience the "wow-effect" (that is: how does he/she do it?!) I think the main reason for the popularity of Kissi Vähähiilari on Antsku (the winner of the Putous 2013 season) was the sheer talent of the actors. It was said (and rightfully so!) that Antsku was the most beautiful woman in Finland, and it was really amazing to see how cute and adorable the actor Jussi Vatanen was able to make this character. Kissi Vähähiilari was also stunning, and it became obvious to the audience that the actor behind this character, Antti Holma, has been to the gym quite often... It was baffling to see how well these two men were able to capture the essence of femininity in their characters, because both characters were so plausible that you could easily believe they really were women! It makes me wonder if there's something so distinctively feminine in all women that it is possible to take and imitate. Maybe that something is what we call femininity; it's difficult to define but easy to recognize when we see it..