FOR a nation that holds the naked sauna sacrosanct, it seems somewhat contradictory that Finns are never happier than when covered head to toe in clothing. Just as the cities and towns of Finland are warming to bearable temperatures, and being outside in short sleeves is no longer dangerous to your health, so everybody rushes to the forest where they have to cover every inch of their flesh against blood sucking mosquitoes.

There are around 40 species of mosquito in Finland but only three main culprits when it comes to biting humans. And they don’t actually bite – they pierce the skin with a sharp proboscis and suck up the blood, stopping it from clotting with a drop of their saliva. It’s this saliva that causes the skin to swell and itch.

COMMONLY known in Finland as sima, and consumed during the First of May (Vappu) celebrations, mead is traditionally a honey wine. Finnish mead doesn’t always include honey, however, although its Finnish name is a synonym of mesi, which means honey. The most common Finnish sima recipes include water, sugar, syrup, yeast and raisins, and are spiced up with the pulp and rind of lemon.

Historically, mead is often associated with the Vikings. Legend tells that the Norse god Odin was weak when it came to his favourite drink: in order to grow wiser and stronger he took a sip of mead after negotiating his payment – he had to sacrifice one of his eyes.

Get your gloves out: a one-day campaign to clean up the country is approaching!

ONE day to clean up an entire country? Yes, that’s right. Cleaning Finland – in one day! is a nationwide event that will see thousands of volunteers committing themselves to ridding Finland of waste in under 24 hours.

The event is part of the larger international movement Let’s Do it! that originated in Estonia in 2007. Instead of waiting for a faceless ‘them’ to clear nature and cities of waste, a group of friends decided to take matters into their own hands and came up with the concept ‘One country, One day’.

RESEARCHERS at the University of Helsinki and the Sibelius Academy in a recently published journal article have shown that our willingness to listen to music is at least partly determined by our genes. Although the study by no means dismisses the importance of environmental factors when it comes to our music-listening preferences, it does emphasise the influence our biological make-up has on our propensity to listen to music.

This latest study is but a smaller part of a bigger research project looking into the biological basis of musical aptitude that started in 2002 and published the first of a number of articles in 2008.

IF the excellent conditions so far this winter haven’t given you enough reason to head outside to try your hand at the myriad outdoor sports on offer, then the Finnish calendar has something in store that might finally persuade you: laskiainen.

Celebrated this year on 6 & 8 March, the occasions respectively known as Shrove Tuesday and Sunday in English see people far and wide across the country heading to the nearest hills for a burst of sledding activity.

Having been celebrated in Finland since the 1500s, traditionally laskiainen was an occasion to confess one’s sins and obtain absolution prior to the start of Lent.