March 21, 2014

Five Facts from a Minnesota Finn

My dad's side of the family is 100% Finnish.  So as far as culture goes, my American upbringing was influenced most by that origin.   I had been reminiscing, jotting down thoughts on this before St. Urho's Day came along last week.  (Yes, St. Urho's Day is a real Minnesota Finn thing, it was fun to read the responses to it!)  
Here are five facts from the Finnish origins that rubbed off on my Minnesotan upbringing:

1.  Hanging in our house growing up, there was a weaving (I believe my dad made it as a child) of the Finnish flag and the word Suomi.  Its one of my fondest family treasures in my parents' house to this day.
*Two important Finnish terms to know: 
Suomi: A Finnish word that refers to Finland or the Finnish language.
Sisu: A Finnish term loosely translated as strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity. The literal meaning is equivalent in English to "having guts." However sisu is defined by a long-term element in it; it is not momentary courage, but the ability to sustain an action against the odds.


The Finnish house my great grandpa was born in (1893):




2.  Northern Minnesota is said to be similar in climate & landscape to Finland.  There is a town near Lake Superior's north shore named Finland, MN.  And when my great grandpa came to the U.S. in the early 1900's, (one of two who did so) he settled near a community called Suomi, named so because the people who settled here were almost all Finnish and the area reminded them of the homeland.  Suomi Hills is one of my favorite Minnesota areas.  I passed through recently. 


3.  My grandparents' dog was named Koira. (dog)
As kids we knew other simple Finnish words like kissa (cat) and hyvää päivää  (Good day) - Koira would "shake" to this greeting.

4. We ate foods with Finnish names. Mojakka was a stew made often in our home.
Pannukakku was a crepe-like breakfast food that I haven't had since I was a kid.
I should learn to make it.   "Oppia ikä kaikki." (To learn through whole life.)


Lily of the Valley is the national flower of Finland - it grows well in Minnesota, too. 
Like my shamrock, my lily of the valley descends from my great grandmother's.
 

5.  We had traditional saunas on Saturday evenings.
Boy, do I miss a good sauna.  The sound of the water hissing as it hits the rocks.   The smell of the steam as it heats the ceiling.  The shock of that final cold dipper of water after washing.  And the feeling of walking back to the house in the freshest-feeling night air imaginable in my pajamas. 
I also have "warm" memories of the sauna at my grandma's house.
We sawed cedar logs several years ago designated to building a sauna of our own.
"Toivossa on hyvä elää."   It's good to live in hope! 

One more thing:  I had a Finnish last name that was often mispronounced or misspelled.  :)
Do you have childhood memories, or carry on traditions influenced by an origin or place other than where you live now?

32 comments:

  1. I love reading history of families...this was quite enjoyable. His birth home is gorgeous. Now, I'm wondering just why they came to America and left that behind them. It's so amazing to read that some areas of USA are named after European heritage.

    Love the lilies of the valley...my mom's favorite flower.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My understanding is that famine & political instability (which Finland had a lot of with Russia) had a lot to do with immigration in the 1800's. In the case of my great grandpa that was born in the red house, there is a wealth of recorded family history. I just found transcript & audio of him being interviewed by the MN Historical Society in 1975 where he stays that his father divided his home there into three different parts for three brothers to farm (there were 9 living children) and my great grandpa (being youngest) was left out. The two younger brothers were suppose to stay with one of my brothers with land and "got kind of disgusted," so they asked their father if he would give me money enough to come to the U.S.
      He was 15 when he came here alone in 1908. The other "left out" brother followed.
      I think that was the biggest reason for immigration - the shortage of land in Europe, and the great possibility of owning land here in America.
      My favorite flower, too - they bloom every year in May for our daughter, Lilly's birthday!

      Delete
  2. Amanda,

    My Mom is 3/4 Czech and she liked to share her family heritage with us girls. My Great Grandma was the first generation born in the US. Grandpa learned to speak Czech and didn't learn English until he went to school.

    My first dog was called Pess; "dog" in Czech. My last year of 4-H I had a steer I called Pupeck (not sure on the spelling); "belly button" in Czech.

    Great Grandma made a traditional Czech foods, a lot of breads and sweets, that we all loved. Mom and I still use Great Grandma's bread recipe.

    Thank You for sharing about your Fin heritage, fun idea! I find it neat that Northern MN has a similar climate as Finland.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cool to learn that about you Robyn!
      We have a famous family "Grandma Bread" too. :)

      Delete
  3. No, nothing like your Finnish background. My mother was half Spanish and half Welsh, and my dad was just a little bit of everything. Nobody had any wonderful traditions, that I remember anyway. Yours are really special. Thank you for sharing them with me. Now I now a little Finnish! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. My sister in law is Finnish. I will have to send a link to this posting to her. She will enjoy reading it, I'm sure.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I can see how Finnish people would be attracted to MN with a comparable climate and landscape. What Im wondering is how my Southern Italian side of the family ended up there! (there are articles in the MNHS about the immigration). Awesome story!

    ReplyDelete
  6. This was so cool! Loved hearing about your heritage.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oh what wonderful memories you have my husbands family is from the Netherlands so he has many memories of when they settled in Canada much like yours but not Finnish:) I want my children to remember his memories. I was born in Canada with a very long line of story tellers so I love remembering the stories. Love your GreatGrandpas house. B

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for sharing something of your Finnish heritage with us. My late wife was Hungarian, so our children grew up with some traditional Hungarian foods, and we all learned some simple Hungarian words and phrases. I hope they haven't forgotten them.

    ReplyDelete
  9. What a treasure trove of family history you have. Beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I so enjoyed your post today. I love learning about other people's cultures. I really liked the meaning of the word Sisu. I find it fascinating to see what area's in the US people from other countries settled in. Here where I live it started out where lots of Italian people settled here. Then we started getting a group of Russian people and now lots & lots of Hispanics. Everyone brings a bit of their homeland culture with them so it really makes it very diverse around here.
    Now I know another way to say cat. I know (Gotto) is cat in Spanish and now (Kissa) in Finnish.
    Those Crepes sound yummy. I had some Swedish Crepes the other day at a Restaurant with Ligonberry butter that were pretty tasty. Your lily of the Valley is very pretty. Such dainty blossoms.

    ReplyDelete
  11. What a fun story! I myself am a 100% Finn living in US. Would have to visit Minnesota as it would be great fun to see the place names you referred to.
    One correction though to your story: the crepe-like breakfast food is spelled Pannukakku.
    Oppia ikä kaikki!
    Thank you for the story!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your help in correcting my spelling error, I appreciate it!

      Delete
    2. Amanda - Paivikki is my sister in law. I'm glad she got to see this. She doesn't miss the winters though. She now lives in AZ. :)

      Delete
    3. It looks like Christmas outside again today - more fresh inches of snow!
      Even those with great sisu have to wonder sometimes - why anyone would want to live in winters like this. :)

      Delete
  12. i have a blogger pal in s. wis. that built a sauna on their property as it is part of their heritage, too. :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hello from one Finn to another :) If you need a good Pannukakku recipe I have it in my food categories on my blog. I have family in Mountain Iron Minnesota and have only been to that area a couple of times, very beautiful up there.
    I'm the blogger TexWisGirl was talking about. Your Finnish upbringing sounds much like mine and my husbands upbringing.

    ReplyDelete
  14. oh wow, i love genealogy so i especially love your post! how lucky to have grown up with such strong ties to your ancestral roots! lucky i say!!

    ReplyDelete
  15. I loved hearing of your Finnish heritage. Your grandfather's home in red is stately with charm. Wonderful that you remember some of the language. Special times like sauna are great memories and something you could continue with your children.

    ReplyDelete
  16. How wonderful that you have that cultural tie in your family.

    ReplyDelete
  17. That's so cool that you know so much about your heritage! Keep those traditions alive for your family.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I really enjoyed reading facts about your heritage!! A nice hot sauna sounds good right now!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Your story is beautiful and could be repeated by many as we are a land of immigrants. It is wonderful that you grew up with the knowledge of your heritage and can pass it on so the lives forever, as it should. My family on both sides were primarily English and I am quite certain that much of the way we were raised came from that heritage though it wasn't really discussed. My Great, Great Grandmother was, however, American Indian giving me just a tweak of Indian heritage. That has grasped my interest and I have read much about the Indian culture and their oneness with Nature. I think that has had more of an impact on my feelings and life choices. This was a wonderful post, Amanda ... Thank you for sharing.

    Andrea @ From The Sol

    ReplyDelete
  20. Finland is a beautiful country! Loved reading about your heritage.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Love that you have the picture of the house that your great grandpa was born in. A treasure, as is the knowledge you keep alive of your heritage.

    ReplyDelete
  22. How fun to read these Finnish words and traditions. My friend's husband speaks Finnish and sometimes uses Finnish words as passwords (he just has to remember what he uses - same as the rest of us). I grew up with PA Dutch traditions and my husband's grandmother spoke fluent PA Dutch (different than actual Dutch or German). She believed that every meal should have both a sweet and a sour component. She also loved to eat things like tripe and tongue which seemed really gross - both then and now! Lily of the Valley is such a delicate, sweet flower - lucky you to have these descendant plants.

    ReplyDelete
  23. What wonderful memories and traditions. "To learn through whole life". Love that!

    ReplyDelete
  24. This is a nice post - my kids have to do a multicultural day at school - I think they would be much more happy with Pannukakku than what ever English food I can think up!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

    ReplyDelete
  25. Hi Amanda, Thank you for this lovely post! I enjoyed greatly reading all the comments as well ... We all have some relations to immigration - If not self, then we know someone who has :)
    Oh those childhood memories, sisu, sauna, pannukakku ... I loved reading the story of you grandfather, and the picture of his childhood house ... bringing the history nearer, the war with Russia - things I have heard from my grandfather. It's a small world, after all ... And we're all related in one way or another - in this global village of ours!
    PS: The sidebar quote is wonderful: "To put the world in order ..." !

    ReplyDelete