With everyone around you discussing nothing but swine flu and pikkujoulu, don’t be surprised if the words etkot and jatkot pop up in quite a few conversations. While the concept of both pre- and after-parties exist in other countries, in few do they play as central a role in events as here in Finland.

Etkot are usually held in someone’s home, at a bar en route from home to a party, or perhaps at some essential halfway point, such as a (licensed) hairdressing salon. They are an opportunity to warm up for proceedings with a glass of bubbles in anticipation of a night in which the drinks list may include only warm beer or flat cider. And once the office party has started to show signs of dying down, anyone with an ounce of cool has to tag along to the jatkot, which usually involves several hours of devoted drinking at whatever bar or club serves the cheapest beer to the drunkest people.

Far from being an added extra, jatkot are an essential part of the overall Christmas party experience, particularly for those fond of stories involving drunken behaviour, inappropriate suggestions and the kind of spontaneously combusting office romances that see perfectly respectable managers heading home with a wife very clearly not their own. After which there is little left for even the most hard core to do than spend an hour waiting for a cab — or better still, sober up during the long, long walk home.

David Brown