Posts Tagged ‘months


#353 joulukuu – ‘christmas month’

353/365 joulukuu – ‘christmas month’, originally uploaded by rosipaw.

December 19, twelfth, and last, lesson of Finnish month names.

December for us is JOULUKUU.
joulu = Christmas
kuu = month (actually ‘moon’, since a month would be ‘kuukausi’, literally ‘moon period’)

Another nice and easy name that doesn’t really need further explanations. It took me quite some time, though, to think of which picture to use to illustrate this month. I wanted a picture of a traditional, Finnish Christmas decoration, and in the end, chose this straw billygoat, decorated with red ribbons. These are common in other Scandinavian countries, too. The use of straw derives from old harvest festivals, and is very common for many different Christmas decorations (see this one, too) As for the billygoat, it is part of an ancient, pagan tradition. In those days, after Christmas, a troop of dressed-up people used to go round, giving performances in people’s homes, in exchange for food and drink. One of the members was dressed as a scary-looking billygoat. Later, in Christian times, the billygoat character still went round in January, and it was commonly believed that he came to chase Christmas away. These days, the tradition still lives on in these decorations, and in the Finnish language – Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, in Finnish is ‘joulupukki’, meaning Christmas billygoat!

Apart from getting all the family Christmas decorations out, we also light candles everywhere, and every day in December. It is the darkest time of the year, and with the candles, we seem to live in a reddish twilight most of the time.

What’s more, this picture nicely suits today’s Daily Shoot as well:

Illustrate one of the meanings of the the word warmth today in a photograph.


#307 marraskuu – ‘dead month’

November 3, the eleventh lesson of Finnish month names.

October for us is MARRASKUU.
marras = dead (Used to refer to dead earth, where nothing grows. The word derives from the same root as the French ‘mort’, but it’s fallen out of use in Finnish, except for this month name. The modern Finnish word for ‘dead’ is ‘kuollut’.)
kuu = month (actually ‘moon’, since a month would be ‘kuukausi’, literally ‘moon period’)

This month has really lived up to its name even during the first few days. It’s misery, grey and brown hues, and bare trees with their leaves rotting on the ground. The only green you see outdoors, is either the evergreen conifers, or moss on wet rocks. Seems as though all life has vanished from around us. Even we humans feel ‘under the weather’ and lethargic. Chemist’s make fortunes on the sales of artificial vitamins! Like bears and other animals, many of us feel like hiding in a cave, to hibernate through this dreary month.


#292 lokakuu – ‘mud month’

October 19th. I had to wait till almost the end of the month to get an appropriate picture for the tenth lesson of Finnish month names!

October for us is LOKAKUU.
loka = mud
kuu = month (actually ‘moon’, since a month would be ‘kuukausi’, literally ‘moon period’)

This month name is very much to do with the weather and road conditions. ‘Loka’ is not just any type of mud, e.g. not mud in the fields, or in your garden (which would be ‘muta’ in Finnish!), but mud on the roads, against which you need ‘ lokasuojat’ (= mudguards) in your car (NB. NOT ‘mutasuojat’!).

It’s not a nice name for a month, as it implies lots of rain, nasty puddles everywhere, and dirty water spraying around from passing cars. You’d better watch out where you walk this time of the year, No point in washing your car either, since the next day it will look the same again. Then again, this year, luckily, October didn’t live up to its name. We have enjoyed over two weeks of gorgeous sunny days and beautiful autumn colours.


#244 syyskuu – ‘autumn month’

September 1st. The ninth lesson of Finnish month names.

August for us is SYYSKUU.
syys = autumn
kuu = month (actually ‘moon’, since a month would be ‘kuukausi’, literally ‘moon period’)

Nice and simple again. A feast of rich colours – reds, yellows, oranges, browns. Not a lot of colours yet but I expect much more towards the end of the month. Apples, berries and mushrooms abound.

Darkening nights and cooler temperatures bring a quieter lifestyle, after a busy hot summer. Time to spend more evenings at home, cosily wrapped up in a blanket.


#213 elokuu – ‘harvest month’

August 1st. The eighth lesson of Finnish month names.

August for us is ELOKUU.
elo = ripe grains (usually used in the compound ‘elonkorjuu’, which means collecting the crops from the fields, ie. harvesting)
kuu = month (actually ‘moon’, since a month would be ‘kuukausi’, literally ‘moon period’)

Yet another agricultural month name. Grains look ready in the fields. No doubt, soon the huge combine harvesters will appear, when farmers start harvesting their crops. I didn’t see any today – maybe because it’s Sunday.

August gradually starts the end of summer. Most people’s summer holidays will be over, and for us teachers, and students it will be back to school around the middle of the month.


#182 heinäkuu – ‘hay month’

July 1st. The next lesson of Finnish month names.

July for us is HEINÄKUU.
heinä = hay (or grass)
kuu = month (actually ‘moon’, since a month would be ‘kuukausi’, literally ‘moon period’)

The roots of this name are in the traditional agricultural calendar again. This is the month of haymaking in the fields. Already hay has been cut in many places, and is waiting to dry and then be collected and wrapped into round bales for animal fodder for the coming winter.

In July, the light freshness of summer in June gives way to warmer, more mature colours. As in this picture, the light green fields with hay swaying in the wind are turned into brown stubble. July is the main holiday month in Finland. Working life comes to a standstill with many offices and factories completely shut for the whole month. Finns disappear to their summer cottages.


#91 huhtikuu – ‘slash and burn month’

April 1st. Time to introduce the next Finnish month name to you.
April for us is HUHTIKUU.
huhti (derivative of ‘huhta’) = a forest area cleared for agriculture
kuu = month (or actually ‘moon’, since a month would be ‘kuukausi’)

During this month, in the old days, farmers used to clear large areas of pine forest by cutting the trees and burning them for new land to grow rye, our staple grain for, among other things, special Finnish dark bread. Apparently, the ashes from the burnt trees prepared the soil well for successful crops. After all the nutrients from the burnt area had been depleted, the field was left, and birch trees often found it a fertile land to root themselves in afterwards. This old agricultural practice has shaped the Finnish forest landscape quite a bit but luckily it’s long since finished here because of its destructive effect on the environment.

I had to drive some distance to the countryside to find some felled pines today. I finally found them next to the farmhouse behind the trees in the distance, surrounded by large fields, still covered with snow. I don’t know why these trees were cut down but certainly not to get new fields.


#60 maaliskuu – ‘earth month’

March 1st. Continuing my introduction to the names of months in Finnish:
March for us is MAALISKUU.
maa = earth
kuu = month (or actually ‘moon’, since a month would be ‘kuukausi’)

Maaliskuu is the month when you are supposed to start seeing patches of earth in between the white snow as spring starts approaching – hopefully.

This picture was taken from the aeroplane, though, after taking off from Munich, Germany, on my way home from Singapore. Seems that in southern Germany it’s almost spring already! At least very different from what was awaiting us at Helsinki airport – sleet, slush, greyness and still lots of snow. Let’s hope that by the end of this new month, it will look like this here, too.


#32 helmikuu – ‘pearl month’

032/365 helmikuu – ‘pearl month’, originally uploaded by rosipaw.

I came up with the idea of starting each new month with a theme photo. But what could it be? I know what, I will try to illustrate the name of the month in pictures. With Finnish this gets interesting, since our language simply is something else.

Finnish has nothing to do with other Scandinavian languages, such as our neighbouring Swedish or Norwegian. Finnish belongs to a group called the Finno-Ugric languages, and has its roots somewhere far in the east. Our closest linguistic relative is Estonian, just across the water from Helsinki, or then Hungarian in Central Europe. The structure of our language is very peculiar – e.g. no articles, no prepositions, but we boast 14 different cases, all distinct by different endings added to the end of words. Very complicated.

As for naming the months of the year, unlike most other western languages – including Estonian, insterestingly enough – who have adopted the Latin/Roman way of naming the months, we stubborn Finns have held onto the old names. Their meanings derive from the characteristics of each season or old agrarian references to seasonal farm activities.

So, January that just ended, is TAMMIKUU in Finnish.
tammi = originally the centre of a tree, axis or core (today, it denotes the oak tree)
kuu = month (actually ‘moon’, since a month would be ‘kuukausi’, literally ‘moon period’)
In other words, ‘tammikuu’ divides the winter into half, is half way through winter. I think my very first picture from New Year’s day, could easily illustrate this, even in hindsight.

February for us is HELMIKUU.
helmi = pearl
kuu = see above
The pearls are, of course, formed by snow and ice that, during this month, usually start thawing during the day and then freeze again at night, creating pearl-like formations on branches of trees and bushes.

To be continued in a month’s time…


July 2020

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