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.

SO, it’s that time of year once again when the powers that be (namely store owners) urge you to loosen your purse strings to cough up your hard earned dough in the name of treating your particular loved one. Still smarting from your Christmas debts? Well, here’s another opportunity for bank managers to rub their hands together as we are encouraged more and more to define our love through the size of the price tag dangling from whatever gift your credit limit can allow.

AS IS usual at this time of year, let’s take a look back over the last twelve months and consider the turning points, which we will remember for decades to come (or not).

January. Attempting to recreate Lordi’s Eurovision success of 2006, an unheard of duo by the name of Kuunkuiskaajat was voted Finland’s entry in the 2010 competition. They sucked and didn’t reach the final, partly because no one could pronounce their name.

February. The 2010 Winter Olympics results in a feeble medal haul for Finland – one silver and four bronze – but amazingly no doping scandal.

Time to give an official adieu to summer with the end of Daylight Saving.

THE CRUEL and unforgiving sound of an alarm clock on a cold, dark October morning is one of those little, unpleasant experiences in life we all share – but can’t do much about.

However, the week following the end of Daylight Saving Time, the last Sunday of October each year, gives the entire population of the EU the chance to win one over their morning nemesis. Many of us are woken up a whole hour before that unforgiving “beep, beep, beep” by our biological rhythm, which cannot keep up with the sudden change.

2,5 kg lingonberries
2 l water
25 g lemon or wine acid (can be found from your local pharmacy)
500 g sugar for each liter of juice

Clean and crush the berries. Melt the acid into water, then add the crushed berries. Mix well and keep still for 1-2 days. Run the mixture through a strainer, and add sugar. Pour the juice into bottles and store in a cool place. For an adult version, add a tad of vodka before serving.