Introduction:

"This blog is not necessarily for lovers of art, it includes a variety of topics and whatever. I'm a painter who likes to know what's really going on in the world today. So you might find anything from Shamrocks to Salmiakki mentioned here on my blog. There will of course be some boring, factual and informational posts, but I'll keep them to a minimum, I promise!

And I might get a bit nostalgic now and then.

So you have been warned!"


- Alan Hogan



Showing posts with label customs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label customs. Show all posts

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Mayweather in Finland!

I just wanted to throw a blogpost in quickly as it seems the winter in Finland may finally be over, well at least until after autumn. And no, this post has nothing to do with the recent boxing fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas, so apologies to any boxing fans who stumbled onto my blog here. I hope it was a good fight. I didn't see it myself unfortunately, I was fast asleep in bed!

Getting back to May-weather, last Thursday saw the arrival of Vappu, Finland's annual Mayday celebrations which actually begins on the 30th of April and can continue until May 1st or even longer for some folk depending on whether or not you have a strong head! It's traditionally a very Finnish affair with students past and present wearing their white graduation hats. I've been told that in the past students also had a blue hat which was worn during the winter months and then swapped for a white version on Vappu to celebrate the arrival of spring, summer and happy days. There are various styles of hats symbolising which area, academy or field you studied. For example if you qualified as an engineer you would normally have a long string and tassle attached to your hat. I think I prefer the normal white sailor type hat myself.


The traditional Finnish student hat


Of course as I studied in Ireland myself I don't have this white student hat. To my knowledge students in Ireland don't have student hats, maybe one or two junior schools wear them as part of a uniform but definately not used as graduation wear for Secondary School (High School). Nope, all we received was a certificate and a jolly good wave goodbye! Some third-level colleges and universities may have special graduation garments and hats similar to those found in the United States of America. These are usually rented though, so you would never see them worn annually on May day.

Anyway, with the absence of a white hat I decided to grab my old school tie instead and throw it on just for Vappu. Don't ask me why I still have my old tie, just a bit of nostalgia I suppose! I wasn't going to any Vappu parties so it didn't matter if it offended anyone or looked silly. With my striped-maroon St. David's school tie fitted on and a few drinks ready for some cocktail-experimentation I felt a bit like Harry Potter. My first trick was the exploding champagne bottle!!! Maybe I've just started a new trend for expats, wearing an old school tie on Vappu!

This years Vappu weather couldn't have been more confusing. I was planning a nice garden barbeque with friends for last Thursday, but then after a few pleasant sunny days this arrived on Wednesday morning and continued for most of the day. The final snow show!


  

With no option but to cancel my bbq plans I decided simply to enjoy a bottle of bubbly and some drinks indoors. This didn't stop those in the big cities from partying hard though  and to everyone's surprise the snow melted away like magic and sunshine brought joy to the land of Moomin and trolls. From what I heard there were actually a few new trolls crawling the streets of Helsinki on Thursday night! But overall throughout Finland people had a great day out. Lots of fun, balloons, good weather and of course champagne! Here's a video by a young mexican lady who went to the Vappu outdoor celebrations in the town of Lappeenranta in eastern Finland. She's explains what Vappu is all about in a more photogenic way than I could ever do!





You can read more about Vappu in Finland on my previous blogpost called 

Vappu! - May Day in Finland

Simply click on the image below!
















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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Easter Eggs: Irish v Finnish eggs




As it's the Easter this weekend I just wanted to post a quick blog on Easter eggs.









As a kid growing up in Ireland the best thing about Easter was receiving chocolate Easter eggs. It's customary for Irish children to get an egg from their parents and they often get a few more from relatives also. With lots of nice and kind relatives I usually got around five or six eggs in total!









The eggs themselves vary in size from the smallest 12cm to the largest being around 20cm in height. It's possible to buy much larger eggs, but these are usually expensive and popular with husbands buying for their wives. Most eggs are made from either milk chocolate, dark chocolate or white chocolate. Inside your average Easter egg you can find a bag of chocolate sweets or candy
depending on which brand. 







Most eggs are packed in boxes and foil, some come in very large boxes! The lower-priced eggs (without a box) are usually made from a chocolate-candy, and not as tasty as the real chocolate eggs. Some popular eggs when I was younger were the 'Buttons', 'Flake' and 'Milk Tray' eggs all produced by Cadburys. The famous Milk Tray box of chocolates has been around for as long as I remember and is an old favourite in Ireland. .... James Bond has nothing on the Milk Tray man!





I may be wrong but the large-sized Easter eggs don't seem so common in European countries outside Ireland and the UK, although a few can be found in shops such as Lidl and Aldi. When some Finnish friends of mine were presented with eggs while visiting me when I lived back in Ireland they were quite surprised at how large the typical Irish Easter egg was.

In Finland the eggs you find in shops are usually small. The most common ones I've noticed are the Kinder Surprise egg with a small toy inside. There are many other egg brands of a similar size such as Minnie Mouse, Transformers and of course Angry Birds. I consider the Kinder egg to be like the Cadbury's Creme Egg, and not quite an Easter egg due to the fact that they're both available all year round, at least I think they are. 
For me the best Easter eggs in Finland are the Mignon eggs. These are something special, and nothing like anything you will ever find in Ireland.



The Mignon Egg
   




The Mignon Egg is produced by the Finnish food company Fazer, one of the largest companies in Finland. This egg is the second oldest Fazer product, dating back to 1896 and is considered to be the quintessential Finnish Easter egg. The most notable feature about the Mignon egg is it's resemblence to a normal everyday hen's egg. This is because it is indeed a perfectly natural egg which has be drained of it's contents, cleaned and then filled with a blend of delicious nougat and chocolate. The natural egg look is then enhanced by it's real egg-box packaging. The result is a piece of chocolate art and what I would call an adult's easter egg!!! In other words, it's sitting in my fridge now waiting to be devoured! 

Of course, for those who don't like chocolate here in Finland there is also another customary dish which can be found well-stocked on supermarket shelves this Easter. This is called Mämmi (pronounced Memmy in english). 




Mämmi is an acquired taste and will only appeal to some. For me it was a big NO!! NO!! the first time I tasted it. But as I am a fan of Guinness (a sort of liquified version of Mämmi) I may try tasting it again someday. The Finns consider Mämmi a dessert, but I would rather compare it to a potent energy power-breakfast. Here's a video of what sounds like a Scottish guy describing this Finnish Easter dish in detail !!!
 ... Warning! Viewers discretion advised!!!





Thank you for visiting my blog and Happy Easter from Finland!!!


Thank you very much and please share this with your friends!!!







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- Alan
 



               
                                                             








Saturday, June 28, 2014

Love/Hate List No.1 - No strings attached please!




Love/Hate No.1

HATE - Tea-bags with strings!


People often ask me what I like or dislike in Finland. And some also ask me the same about Ireland. For example food, customs, travel, weather, pubs and so on. So a while back I decided to start a list of a few things I like and dislike. Just little things, nothing too serious.  I made a new photo album on my facebook page called my Love/Hate album. I also threw in a few items or oddities from elsewhere along the way. This blog is simply an extension of the list with more explanations and the odd dose of jibber jabber. 

So I'll begin with 
Love/Hate No.1 
- HATE - Tea-bags with strings!



Tea has been a major import commodity in Britain ever since the seventeenth century and changed drinking habits of the nation forever. It was not until 1908 however that the tea-bag was invented. And it was only by accident that it was invented in America by New York tea merchant Thomas Sullivan, when he start sending out tea samples packed in small silken packages to his customers. The customers unaware that they were supposed to remove the tea leaves from the small silken-packs, simply threw the whole lot into their teapots rather than use the more common metal diffuser or tea-strainer. And thus the tea-bag was born!!! 


'Tea-time reflections' 
pencil on paper, 1988 - Alan Hogan





The humble teabag was then commercially produced with a lighter material and a string attached.
Thomas Lipton incorporated the Lipton Tea Company in 1915. Lipton Tea patented a novel four-sided tea bag in 1952 called the flo-thru tea bag. The Lipton brand is very well-known and can be easily found in most places including Finland. 






The teabag string was added primarily as an aid to draw out the flavour of the tea leaves by way of squeezing the tea-bag. A printed label with the tea brand was also attached to the other end of the string. I can't help but wonder if they ever had teaspoons back then! Nowadays the string is simply used for dipping the tea-bag into the cup as shown in the photo above. This may be suitable for those who like a light cup of tea.


It is still common to find tea-bags on sale with strings attached, especially on continental Europe. They come in an assortment of flavours also, which I personally hate. But that's just me and my loyalty to the plain cup of tea.

Teabags with no strings attached!





The plain cup of tea is a part of what Irish people are. There's always time for a cup of tea. You could say we're tea-mad! 





Indeed, it's a rare occurrence to step into a house in Ireland and not be offered a cup of tea. Unless you are from the electricity supply board or a politician you will most certainly experience this custom when visiting the country, (actually a politician would never ever get past anyone's front door in Ireland these days!)





It's a certainty that a packet of biscuits will also appear like magic out of nowhere after your first sip of tea. Just remember, the nicer you are to your host the better the biscuit!
And if you're ever offered Chocolate Kimberley biscuits in Ireland then you must be very special indeed!!!





In Ireland it is more common to see tea-bags with no strings as they only get tangled up with the spoon! And who needs a string when a spoon does the job perfect anyway! A waste of good string in my opinion.
The same stringless-type tea-bags are also sold in the UK, but they have their own brands such as Tetley, PG Tips and Typhoo. These brands are sold in Ireland, in fact my grandmother used to buy PG Tips when I was a kid. This was probably because I made her, they had some good gifts to be had if you collected enough tokens from their boxes. The guys at Lyons tea soon took up their own promotions. 
More often Irish people prefer to buy Irish brands if possible such as Bewleys, Lyons or Barrys Tea. There is without doubt a better taste and quality in these brands. And when the Irish public drink more tea per capita than the British public something must be right.

The original blend Lyons teabags now available online,
just click on the photo above!






It's a well-known fact that before going on holidays abroad most Irish people will take one of these brands with them in their suitcase. I have noticed a similar custom amongst Finnish people going on holidays with other products. In fact nowadays I always bring a tube of Finnish mustard back to Ireland with me whenever I visit, it's the best and I've already converted one or two Irish people!

Check out this video from the master brewer at Barry's Tea. These guys know their stuff!!!







Of course I don't travel back to Ireland as much as I used to due to the lack of airlines travelling direct. So I always pack a few Irish products into my suitcase before I head back to Finland. Once I get back they don't last long and I'm wanting more. There are a few shops were I can buy English foods here in Finland but they can be very expensive. And anyway I prefer to have some of the food I grew up with, partly because they taste better and partly out of nostalgia.
I have replaced some of my Irish diet with Finnish foods which has been a success. There are places online where thankfully some Irish products and other items can be bought for less than what I would pay in specialised shops in Finland or other countries. So now I can sometimes enjoy a decent cup of tea with no strings attached!

  



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- Alan 

                     


#mrsdoyle #rareauldtimes #anicecupoftea #U2 #barrystea #lyonstea #dublin #thegreatestbandever #hotpressmagazine #teaology #tea #ireland #haveacup #cork #irishabroad #irishdownunder #irishamericans #irishbiscuits #jacobsbiscuits #kimberley #irishproducts #ireland #lovehate


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Vappu! - May Day in Finland










In Finland, Walpurgis day (Vappu) is one of the four biggest holidays along with Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve, and Midsummer (Juhannus). During Vappu one can find big festivals held on the streets of Finland's towns and cities. This celebration which begins on the evening of 30 April and continues to 1 May, involves an all day party with consumption of sima (mead), sparkling wine and other alcoholic beverages.



Student traditions, particularly those of the engineering students, are one of the main characteristics of Vappu. Since the end of the 19th century, this traditional upper-class feast has been appropriated by university students. Many lukio (university-preparatory high school) alumni (who are thus traditionally assumed to be university bound), wear a cap. One tradition is to drink sima, a home-made low-alcohol mead, along with freshly cooked cakes called Tippaleipä. The first time I saw these cakes I thought they looked like fish-bait. But like anything new it must be tried at least once, so I tasted this worm-like delicacy. My verdict was negative. The taste was likened to that of a dull donut, and the cake was a little awkward to eat as it crumbled apart into small pieces on my first bite. In conclusion, it's now near the bottom of my cake list along with carrot-cake!



Tippaleipä and Sima (Mead)


Since I've had all my education back in Ireland I don't have a Finnish cap to wear on this day. I usually celebrate Vappu with a few Finnish friends at home in my garden, depending if the weather is nice. My friends always wear their student caps as is the custom in Finland. During the first few years living in Finland I used to feel a little out of place or somewhat unbelonging for being the only person not wearing a cap at these parties, but this feeling has since disappeared thanks to good food, good company and the joyful consumption of alcohol!



A typical Finnish student cap


I was at one large Vappu party a few years ago where I had an interesting and fun night. Lots of dancing, Finnish food, balloons and even some salmiakki!! It was back in Dublin long before I moved to Finland at a special Vappu event organised by the Irish-Finnish Society. I remember it well as it was held in a place called 'The Garda Club', a recreational venue owned and run by the Irish Police. That was the first time I saw the now familiar sight of the white Finnish student cap.






The main event as far as Vappu is concerned in Finland is the placing of a student cap on Havis Amanda, one of Helsinki's famous statues.



Havis Amanda statue and fountain
in Helsinki, Finland.


Here's a clip of Finnish students placing the cap on Havis Amanda in 2013. The weather was just as it is today here, blue skies and sunshine. A nice start to the new Spring!






I'm not sure what my plans are for tomorrow 1st of May, but for tonight I shall be having a quiet night in to celebrate Vappu with my own brand of Sima from Bunratty! And who knows, I might end up wearing my own student cap by the end of the night (ie. the cap of the bottle!)




Hauskaa Vappua!!!
Glada Wappen!!!
Happy May Day!!!

Lá breá Bealtaine agaibh!!!




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You can receive my blogposts direct to your email or facebook profile by pressing the follow button at NetworkedBlogs  and you are welcome to visit my art page on Facebook by clicking the 'Like' button under my signature below.


- Alan 



                     



Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!!!


'Oddbod' from the film 'Carry on Screaming!'
(or an advertisement for hair loss reversal!)




Happy Halloween as the greeting suggests is all about dressing up and having a bit of fun. Personally I think I'm probably a bit old in the tooth to be wearing Halloween costumes, but if any Halloween party invitations suddenly arrive in the postbox I'll be the first to go running for a mask. Growing up as a child in Ireland the tradition of Halloween always meant putting on a scary mask and knocking on house doors around where I lived. It also gave us a chance to see who was living near us. My mother told my friends and I not to call at strangers' houses. Yep, that was like asking my sisters not to go shopping for shoes! Costumes weren't much, a simple old white sheet my mum was throwing out or a black bin-liner bag were the usual choices. Then there was the plastic mask, which always had a cheap elastic band attached with two staples. It was always good to have a spare stapler at home as it usually broke after an hour or so. The only other items needed were a few explosive sticks or bangers as we called them and a plastic bag for the goodies. The goodies given by house owners varied over the years and changed dramatically with time. During the first few years any type of fruit was the usual received with a few nuts thrown in also. Then some genius decided it was good to give kids sweets instead of fruit! ......I don't recall any kids complaining about this sudden change, but why should they as most of them had indestructable teeth!  While some folk were still handing out the traditional fruit and nuts, more and more were switching to sweets, or as americans called it 'candy'. And because of this many kids developed a sweet tooth and became more demanding and sometimes devilish towards their sponsors... Poetic justice perhaps, or just damn good fun!



Hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds were just some of the traditional treats handed to Irish kids during Halloween collections. ....Walnuts were without doubt my favourite! 



Halloween has grown in popularity with older kids and adults over the years in Ireland and it's an incredibly busy night for bars and nite clubs in the big towns and cities. The chance to put on a costume allows people to join in the celebration and have fun with others. It's not unusual to find Dracula 'kissing' a fair maiden spontaneously during the night, or to see Batman suddenly rescue a total stranger from being too drunk.





I suppose the increase of interest in all things Halloween has been highly influenced and exaggerated by media from the U.S.A., with the constant stream of horror movies from Hollywood over the years. Titles such Friday the 13th, Childs Play, Nightmare on Elm Street and Saw immediately come to mind. And it seems that the USA influence of Halloween has also reached Finland in recent years. With an appetite for hard rock and metal music aswell as all things dark and morbid I am still wondering why Halloween hasn't become a national holiday in Finland by now. 
While I haven't seen any evidence of 'Trick-or-Treating', there are a lot of shops around stocking all sorts of Halloween novelties for kids including costumes, masks and sweets. I think it's mainly for school and private house parties. I also know that some niteclubs have Halloween parties.

One thing I always like to do every Halloween is watch an old horror movie. I have a small selection of horror dvds at home including my favorite, the original version of The Amityville Horror starring James Brolin. Nowadays however you only have to visit YouTube for most of the classics. There's a lot to be found elsewhere online also. 



Here's one you won't find on YouTube. I recently found this old favorite of mine called 'Carry on Screaming!' which is of course a horror-based comedy from way back in 1966. I still love the old British humour in this classic from the 'Carry on' series of films. It's available to watch or download with excellent quality here. (the installation of a DIVX player may be required for some viewers)



Thanks for reading my blog and please feel free to share it with any of your friends. 
.... and a very Happy Halloween!!!!



You can receive my blogposts direct to your email or facebook profile by pressing the follow button at NetworkedBlogs  and you are welcome to visit my art page on Facebook by clicking the 'Like' button under my signature below.


-Alan 





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