Christmas tree lighting
Here's a good example of how things go so much smoother your second year in a new country, compared to your first: we made it on time to Turku's Christmas tree lighting ceremony today! Last year we failed to actually see the ceremony. We didn't really know what was going on and we got behind schedule and left the house late, etc. I've felt bad about it all year. But today was perfect.
The unlit tree has been set up outside of Tuomiokirkko (Turku Cathedral) since Thursday or so. Today at 16.00, there was a brief program, attended by Santa and Mrs. Claus and a few elves, who walked over from the Christmas market across the street. A children's choir sang three songs on the steps of the cathedral. Then the crowd sang a traditional advent hymn (I have yet to catch the name of it - we sing it in the children's class at church, too, a specific verse every week of advent). Then the tree light came on and the crowd sang "Maa on niin kaunis" - "Beautiful Savior."
We'll visit a few Christmas markets downtown over the next few weeks, and then gather again on the main square across from the cathedral to hear the declaration of Christmas peace at noon on Christmas Eve.