It was so good to talk to you all on sunday! It almost felt like being back at home when we skyped. So it felt really weird to step out of that room and "back into Finland" when it was over. This past week was really great, albeit very different from any other week I've had as a missionary so far. I know we talked about some of this over skype, but you're getting it all again!
This week has been a little frustrating as far as "missionary work" goes, as no one seemd to want to meet with us because of the holiday season. But we did have the wonderful opportunity of spending time with a lot of the members here in Tampere. Let me just say that we were well taken care of on Christmas. The members here are amazing!
We spent Christmas Eve with an older lady in the ward and her 2 daughters. She lived pretty far away, so she drove us to her cute little Finnish cottage out in the middle of the woods. And on the way there, we saw Joulupukki! (That's the Finnish Santa Claus.) The Finns have this way fun tradition where Joulupukki personally visits every home on Christmas Eve to deliver presents (usually a family member dressed up as Santa.) It was really fun to see this jolly old man in a red suit walking through a Finnish village--the kind of thing you only hear about in stories! We then ate a traditional Finnish christmas dinner-- ham, mushroom salad, potato and sweet potato casserole, carrot casserole, beets, basically a bunch of little side dishes, and all very tasty!
Before we went home that night, we had requested to go to a cemetery. I've heard about this beautiful tradition that the Finns have of putting candle lanterns on the graves of family members on Christmas Eve. It was even better than I imagined. I'm sending a couple of pictures, but they really don't do it justice. The member we were with gave me a candle to light and place on this stone block which was filled with candles placed in memory of family members who weren't buried in that specific cemetery. So I lit the candle and placed it there in memory of Grandma Shaw :)
Then Christmas Day was really great. After church, we went to another older lady in the ward's place and had another traditional Finnish Christmas Dinner. Afterwards, we went to another family in the ward and that's where I skyped you guys! Then on Tapaninpäivä (Boxing Day), we went to another family in the ward for lunch. When we got there, the mom asked if we liked traditional Finnish Christmas food, to which we replied that we did. She said "Great! We're having lasagna!" She figured that we had probably been having a lot of the same foods the past few days--which we had--so her lunch was definitely a welcome treat. Then we spent the evening with another family. We had yet another traditional Finnish Christmas meal, and we went Christmas caroling with them afterwards. It was a lot of fun!
The other highlight of the week was zone conference. We were fed a traditional Finnish Christmas meal (surprise!) prepared by our office staff. It started with a bowl of riisipurro--or rice porridge, which is actually very tasty (once you've added sugar and cinnamon :)) and in Finland there is a tradition of placing an almond in one of the bowls of riisipurro. As the tradition goes, the recipient of the almond will be married within the next year. I could hardly believe my mouth when I felt the almond in it. Upon finding out that I received the almond, President Rawlings asked with a very concerned look on his face, "Will you have time for that?" I replied that I'll have a month--I go home 11 months from now. He laughed and said that "that's enough time. It would go against the advice of your mission president, but it would be enough time." His wife decided that maybe receiving the almond meant getting married within a year after coming home from your mission. Haha. We'll see!
Well, I love you all family! Sorry I know that you've already heard everything in this email once already, but maybe it's good to have in writing? Make it a great week!