A Food Sociological Analysis of the Finnish

 A Food Sociological Analysis of the Finnish
Christmas Meal Tradition in English Language
Blogs by Finns
Master’s Thesis
Marjaana Lehtonen
University of Jyväskylä
Department of Languages
English
March 2012
JYVÄSKYLÄN YLIOPISTO
Tiedekunta – Faculty
Laitos – Department
Humanistinen tiedekunta
Kielten laitos
Tekijä – Author
Tiina Marjaana Lehtonen
Työn nimi – Title
A Food Sociological Analysis of the Finnish Christmas Meal Tradition in English Language
Blogs by Finns
Oppiaine – Subject
Työn laji – Level
englanti
Pro gradu -tutkielma
Aika – Month and year
Sivumäärä – Number of pages
maaliskuu 2012
99 sivua
Tiivistelmä – Abstract
Tutkielman tarkoituksena on selvittää ruoan sosiologiaan kuuluvan ateriatutkimuksen
näkökulmasta, miten suomalaiset bloggaajat kuvaavat jouluateriaa suhteessa
ruokaperinteeseen julkisissa, ainakin osin englanninkielisissä blogeissa ja millaisena joulun
ajan aterioiden sosiaalinen järjestys esitetään. Aineisto koostuu 13 julkisesta blogista.
utkielmaan tulee sisältyä suomenkielinen tiivistelmä (suomenkielisillä opiskelijoilla), jossa
selostetaan tutkielman tavoitteita, tutkimusmenetelmiä ja -materiaalia, sisältöä ja tuloksia.
Asiasanat – Keywords meal study, social organization of a meal, Finnish Christmas food
tradition, blogs
Säilytyspaikka – Depository Aallon lukusali
Muita tietoja – Additional information
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1
INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................... 5
2
THEORETICAL BACKGROUND ............................................................................... 10
3
2.1
Finnish Christmas meal tradition ........................................................................... 10
2.2
Sociology of food as a field of study ..................................................................... 13
2.3
Central approaches to the analysis of the meal ...................................................... 17
2.3.1
The structuralistic approach to sociology of food .......................................... 17
2.3.2
Douglas’ model to the analysis of the social organization of a meal ............. 18
2.3.3
The Nordic model to the analysis of the social organization of meals .......... 21
THE SET-UP OF THE PRESENT STUDY .................................................................. 24
3.1
The aim of the present study and the research questions ....................................... 24
3.2
Blogs as data .......................................................................................................... 27
3.2.1
Personal blogs and use of blogs as data ......................................................... 27
3.2.2
Blogging among Finns ................................................................................... 29
3.2.3
The collection, selection and classification of food related blogs by Finns ... 30
3.2.4
The collection and selection of the Christmas related blog entries by Finns . 38
3.2.5
The profiles of the selected blogs and the bloggers ....................................... 39
3.3
4
ANALYSIS .................................................................................................................... 49
4.1
The analysis of the social organization of the Christmas porridge meal ............... 49
4.1.1
The naming of the porridge meal ................................................................... 49
4.1.2
The structure of the porridge meal ................................................................. 51
4.1.3
The Social organization of the porridge meal ................................................ 54
4.2
The analysis of the social organization of the Christmas meal .............................. 54
4.2.1
The naming of the Christmas meal ................................................................ 54
4.2.2
The structure of the Christmas meal – what is eaten ..................................... 56
4.2.3
The structure of the Christmas meal – preparation and serving ..................... 64
4.2.4
The social organization of the Christmas meal - the location and company .. 67
4.2.5
The social organization of the Christmas meal - who prepares ..................... 75
4.3
5
Method of analysis ................................................................................................. 47
The analysis of the emergence of tradition in the blogs......................................... 76
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS ......................................................................... 85
BIBLIOGRAPHY .................................................................................................................. 96
5 1
INTRODUCTION
The purpose of this study is to analyse the social organization of the Christmas meals
as described by Finnish bloggers in their English blogs and the bloggers’ relation to
the Finnish Christmas food tradition as represented in their blog entries.
The analysis of the Christmas meal related blog entries by Finnish writers is
interesting with respect to the Christmas meal tradition, because previous research
proposes, on the one hand, that the Christmas meal tradition is a key element in the
annual celebration of Christmas and as such the meals have a special role in the
Finnish meal system, and, on the other hand, that Finns internalise the rules related to
the Christmas meals (Knuuttila 2004: 41). Typically, however, meal studies in the
Finnish context focus on everyday meals (see for example Mäkelä 2002), so the
present study attempts to fill the gap by studying how the blogs relate to the idea of a
nationally shared Christmas tradition.
Furthermore, the present study is interesting because it is designed in a way that
combines a core element of the writers’ native food culture, namely the Finnish
Christmas food tradition, and the use of a foreign language, English. Sociology of
food suggests that food culture always reflects the surrounding culture (see for
example Douglas 1975, Mäkelä 1990, Mennell, Murcott & van Otterloo 1992,
Ashley, Hollows, Jones & Taylor 2004). As stated above, Knuuttila (2004: 41)
suggests that understanding the rules related to the Finnish Christmas food tradition
is one part of being a Finn and that all Finns have an idea of the Christmas menu.
Thus, a typical Finn can be expected to be aware of both the Finnish Christmas food
tradition and how his/her personal way of celebrating Christmas relates to the
tradition. The interesting question here is how the element that is supposedly familiar
and taken-for-granted for the writers is described in a foreign language and to a
readership that potentially includes readers with a limited knowledge on the Finnish
Christmas tradition and Finnish food culture.
The data of the present study consist of Christmas meals related postings in 13
publicly accessible blogs by Finnish writers. The analysis mainly focuses on the parts
6 written in English, but occasionally non-English sections are referred to as well in
multilingual blogs. As far as the authors are concerned, the attribute ‘Finnish’ is my
interpretation of the author’s linguistic resources, based on the blog content, rather
than an indicator of the writer’s actual identity or nationality. In the selection
process, I considered ‘Finnish’ authors who 1) kept a bilingual or multilingual blog
in which one of languages is Finnish, 2) kept several monolingual blogs of which at
least one is in Finnish, 3) kept a blog primarily in English with Finnish as a backup
or explanatory resource, and/or 4) declared Finnish identity either explicitly or
implicitly.
The suitability of the data for the purposes of the present study can be evaluated from
several points of view. Firstly, using blog entries written in English by Finns
interests me because of the freedom the genre gives to the writer. It is reasonable to
assume that the writers have been able to freely choose whether they want to keep a
blog, what they write about and, within their language repertoire, what language(s)
they choose to use. Thus, the Christmas meal descriptions produced within such a
high degree of freedom are suitable material for study that enlightens the questions of
what they consider worth writing about their Christmas meals. Christmas related
texts produced in more controlled contexts, such as school assignments, could more
easily reflect the interpretation of Christmas imposed on the writers externally. The
present data is more likely to represent the spontaneous relation the writers have to
the Christmas tradition and how they interpret the rules related to Christmas food and
meals. Secondly, being publicly accessible entries, the use of the data can be
ethically justified; the writers have deliberately chosen to publish the texts so that
they are available to any user of the internet.
Thirdly, the concept of the traditional Finnish Christmas meal is suitable for my
purposes for several reasons. To begin with the sociology of food perspective, the
previous research on the Finnish food culture the Christmas meal is a seen as
representing the core of the Finnish national food culture. Previous study further
suggests that in Finland the Christmas tradition is a homogenous and lists the key
elements of the Christmas menu. Thus, based on the previous research, the Christmas
meal can be seen as an important aspect of the Finnish food culture and therefore
suitable as a focus of study. On a more technical level, the data were searchable
within the blogosphere because the existing definitions and descriptions of the
7 Finnish Christmas meal tradition provided potential keywords which, in different
combinations, could be used to formulate searches so that the results matched my
criteria reasonably effectively.
The analytical framework of the present study is qualitative content analysis. The
analytic method draws on the so called Nordic model (Mäkelä et al. 1999, Mäkelä
2002) to the analysis of the meal. Further, the analysis of the blogs is parallel; the
structure of the analysis is derived from the Nordic meal model and relevant sections
from one or several blogs are discussed.
The main dimensions of the analysis are, firstly, the Christmas porridge meal and the
main Christmas meal and, secondly, the Christmas food tradition. The meal analysis
consists of three dimensions, namely the naming of the meal, the structure of the
meal and the social organization of the meal. In the naming of the meal section, the
analysis attempts to describe the rules that are applied to the naming of the Christmas
time meals. The analysis of the structure of the meal attempts to define what is eaten
at the Christmas porridge meal and at the Christmas meal and how the food is served.
The analysis of the social organization attempts to define where and with whom the
Christmas porridge meal and the Christmas meal are eaten and who prepares the
meals.
The analysis of the Christmas food tradition attempts to describe the awareness and
interpretation of the tradition among the bloggers as well as how the Christmas time
meals described in the blogs reflect the tradition. The analysis further describes how
the blogger’s react to omissions and alterations to the tradition.
This thesis is organized in the following way. The next chapter covers background
information for the present study. Firstly, the focus is on the Finnish Christmas food
tradition. Secondly, sociology of food as a research field is described with an
emphasis on approaches that are closely related to the present study, namely the
structuralistic approach which is a central framework for the key theory in the field
of meal studies, the Douglas’ model to the analysis of the meal. Finally, the main
theory applied in the present study and an extension of the Douglas’ model, the
Nordic model to the analysis of the meal is introduced.
8 The third chapter enlightens the set-up of the present study. Firstly, the aim of the
study and the research questions are specified. Secondly, the chapter focuses on
blogs as data. The discussion covers on the one hand the phenomenon of Finns
blogging in English and on the other hand the selection and collection of the present
data as well as short descriptions of source blogs. Thirdly, the analysis method is
described in detail.
The analysis is described in detail in the fourth chapter. The discussion is organized
in the following way: in the beginning of the chapter, the analysis of the social
organization of the Christmas meals is reported whilst the latter part is devoted to
discussion on how the meal descriptions reflect the Finnish Christmas food tradition
and awareness of it and interpretation of the tradition among the bloggers.
The part dealing with the social organization of the meals is organized in the
following way. The porridge meal and the main Christmas meal are discussed
separately. The meal-specific discussion on the analysis is organized according to the
research questions so that there are individual sections for each dimension of
analysis, namely 1) the naming rules, 2) the structure and 3) the social organization
of the Christmas meals. In the sections focusing on the naming rules, the chapter
deals with how the bloggers name the Christmas time meals and what seems to
influence this. The sections focusing on the structure attempt to answer to questions
1) what is eaten and 2) how it is served. Finally, the sections focusing on the social
organization, the questions to be answered are 1) where and 2) with whom the
Christmas porridge meal is eaten and 3) who prepares it.
The final chapter provides reflection on the present study including discussion on the
research process carried out and on how the analysis succeeded in answering to the
research questions as well as the usefulness of findings. Next, limitations of the
present study are discussed and, finally, potential questions for future research are
introduced.
9 10 2
2.1
THEORETICAL BACKGROUND
Finnish Christmas meal tradition
This section focuses on the Finnish Christmas meal tradition as suggested by
previous research. Firstly, the focus will be on festive meals in general as well as on
the role that Christmas celebration has in the Finnish culture and the centrality of
meal tradition in that celebration. Secondly, the traditional serving style is described.
Finally, this section introduces some dishes that, in the Finnish context, have been
traditionally associated with Christmas. The dish level discussion reflects the popular
interpretations of what the Finnish Christmas menu consists of and mainly draws on
unscientific publications. In sum, this section describes what the traditional Finnish
Christmas meal consists of, how it is served and what it typically means for Finns.
This is done in order to illuminate the concept that this study uses as the baseline in
the analysis.
Universally, what is characteristic of festive occasions is the importance of tradition
and rituals, abundance and certain dishes associated with a certain occasion (Mäkelä
1990; Mäkelä 2002; Piispa 2004: 118-119; Mennell & al. 1992; Knuuttila 2006).
Previous research suggests that Christmas is the most significant holiday for Finns,
and its traditions are most highly valued. The Christmas dinner is the focal point of
Finnish Christmas tradition (Mäkelä 1990: 48-49). Knuuttila (2004: 41) describes
awareness of what is supposed to be available on the Christmas menu as a means for
understanding one’s native food culture and its inner system of meanings.
According to Mäkelä (1990: 47-49 and 76), compared to everyday life, in a festive
context rules are consciously obeyed and seen as more important. For a meal to be
recognizable as such, it is important that there are familiar elements that are repeated
unchanged from time to time. Especially important the norms and rituals are for a
festive meal. Preparations for a festive meal are typically more complicated and
ingredients more sophisticated than what is the case with a normal meal. ).
Christmas dinner has a special symbolic value as a carrier of family tradition
(Charles & Kerr 1988 as quoted by Mäkelä 2000: 11). Repeating tradition faithfully
11 is seen as a way of honoring the previous generations and strengthening the bond
between family members. Mennell and al. (1992: 10) discuss Douglas’s theory on
meal systems and note that “there is a very clear idea of what should constitute
Christmas dinner”. Knuuttila states that if the Christmas menu differs from the
traditional one, some kind of an explanation is called forth. The difference from the
original menu might be either an omission of an essential element or an addition of a
new element. (Knuuttila 2006: 19 and 27.) It is customary that families repeat the
Christmas menu year after year. Certain dishes are seen as necessary for creating the
proper Christmas spirit. (Mäkelä 2003: 41.)
For festive celebrations, more food is usually prepared than can be consumed
(Thursby 2008: 160). Mäkelä (1990: 48-49) and Piispa (2004: 118-119) point out
that the Finnish Christmas tradition forms no exception; abundance is in a significant
role. Even though the dinner is extensive and rich, snacks are also an important part
of Finnish Christmas food tradition. Constant eating and night time snacks are
perfectly acceptable during the holiday. One aspect of joy is the awareness of a
shared pleasure: the entire nation is feasting and normal restrictions do not apply.
One is expected to eat as much as one possibly can.
Traditionally, the Finnish Christmas meal lasts long, is abundant and includes several
dishes which in the Finnish context are identifiable as “Christmas food” (Mäkelä
1990: 48-49). As far as the serving style is concerned, the typical method is a
Scandinavian buffet which, according to Mäkelä (2002: 13), is a combination of
synchronic and diachronic styles. It is synchronic in the sense that “the guest can
choose from a large number of dishes served at the same time in each course”
(Mäkelä 2000: 9). Yet, as Mäkelä points out, even though it is possible to choose and
combine dishes freely, typically people follow the order used in the diachronic style,
namely starting with cold fish and meats, then the hot dish and finally dessert
(Mäkelä 2002, 13). Therefore, Mäkelä classifies the Scandinavian buffet, and the
Finnish Christmas meal, as a combination of these styles.
According to Mäkelä (2003: 41), Finns share the idea of “a traditional” Christmas
menu. As far as facts are concerned, Finnish Christmas food tradition is only little
over a century old. However, the image is very strong and homogenous. Among the
items that are generally considered to belong to the traditional Finnish Christmas
12 menu are, for example, ham, casseroles and gingerbread (Mäkelä 1990: 47-49;
Knuuttila 2006: 27). Typically, not all traditional items are included in the menu or
in the family tradition, but people are aware of what is missing from the complete set
and have some knowledge on the dishes they may have never tasted or seen (Mäkelä
2003: 41).
Christmas is often seen a stable tradition but it has not been immune to change in the
past. Salokorpi and Lehmusoksa (1998: 80-81) list as traditional and still popular
Christmas dishes the following: ham, rutabaga casserole, prune tarts, gingerbread
cookies, rosolli, carrot casserole and rice porridge. Lutefisk, in contrast, divides
opinions: it is the favorite dish for some, while some refuse to eat it. According to
Linnilä and Utrio (2006: 98), lutefisk had a central role as a festive food from the
Middle Ages until 1960’s. Since then salted, raw spiced, grilled or smoked salmon
has become more popular.
According to Salokorpi and Lehmusoksa (1998: 92) porridge is the oldest festive
dish, if bread is left aside, and still a part of the Christmas, even though in a modified
form; original rye or barley has been replaced with rice. Further, the contemporary
style is to serve rice porridge as either breakfast or lunch.
Ham, which was introduced in the 19th century, is often a central dish in modern
Christmas menu and has replaced sausages and brawn (Linnilä and Utrio 2006: 99
and 122). Ham became popular in the 1930’s (Hemmi 2008: 39). Even though ham is
strongly associated with Christmas, Salokorpi and Lehmusoksa describe urban
Christmas as also allowing some heterogeneity: some families buy foods ready-made
and, instead of ham, the main dish may be turkey, reindeer or roast beef. There are
also entirely vegetarian Christmas menus in some families. (Salokorpi &
Lehmusoksa 1998: 125). Mäkelä (1990: 49), however, sees alternative suggestions
introduced by media for Christmas menu to be alternative only superficially; as a
matter fact, she argues, they only represent a lighter or vegetarian version of the
traditional Christmas meal. Further, she argues that new ideas suggested for
Christmas have not challenged the tradition, and that, in general, there is no
indication of major changes in the way Christmas time eating is socially is organized
in Finland.
13 Like ham, gingerbread is strongly associated with Christmas in Finland. According
to Koskinen and Vuolio (1989: 38-39) the tradition has arrived from Germany and
Sweden in late 19th century and gingerbread house a little later, in the 20th century.
Gingerbread houses can be manifestations of skills or imagination and instead of
houses they can take form of a castle or sauna, for example.
This section enlightened the concept of the traditional Finnish Christmas meal as
well as the cultural role of the Christmas celebration in Finland. This was important
because the very concept will be used as a baseline in the analysis phase of the
present study. Next, the focus will be on previous research in the field of sociology
of food.
2.2
Sociology of food as a field of study
The present study strives to apply theories developed in the field of sociology of food
and the Nordic model to the analysis of the social organization of meals, in
particular, as the theoretical framework. Therefore, some of the main approaches of
the sociology of food are viewed and discussed in this chapter.
Starting from the general field of food related studies, the Academy of Finland
defines food sciences as focusing on materials suitable for human consumption and
production and on processing of such materials but it also covers the study of food’s
“status and significance in our culture, attitudes and consumption habits”(Anderson
2006: 28). Within that broadest definition of food sciences or food related research
one basic distinction is one that separates approaches that regard food as nutrition
and those that regard food as a cultural phenomenon (see, for example, Mäkelä
1990).
The field of culturally oriented food studies can be approached from different angles.
Firstly, a rather recent definition considers food studies or food culture studies an
emerging, independent field that constitutes a discipline of its own. Currently, there
is for example a professorship in food culture in Helsinki University at Faculty of
14 Behavioural Sciences. The professorship began in 2011. (Kurunmäki 2008: 73 and
YLE Helsinki 2011.)
Secondly, food studies can be defined as a field that primarily focuses on food as
communication. Fjellström (2009: 19-20) describes the use of food studies related
terminology in the Swedish context and calls forth a definition that is stricter than the
above mentioned distinction between nutritional and cultural emphasis. According to
Fjellström, in the Swedish context the term “matkultur”, ‘food culture’, can be used
in basically any sense other than nutritional. For example, religious, gender, and
value related aspects can be included in it. Fjellström argues that being so widely
applicable, the term food culture may lead to misunderstandings and, therefore, other
terms are needed. She suggests term “matens kulturella kunskapssystem”, ‘food’s
cultural system of knowledge’. The core of this term is that food is seen as a tool
which communicates meaning, but it also refers to communication between people in
itself. Fjellström (2009: 19-20) describes her definition of meaning of food as being
based on Counihan’s model which was introduced 1999 in The Anthropology of food
and body. This model, according to Fjellström, includes four aspects: 1) cuisine
which covers ingredients and how they are combined and prepared, 2) etiquette and
food rules, 3) taboos and 4) symbols which covers meanings associated with food in
certain situations.
Thirdly, one distinction within the field of food related studies can be made between
research focusing on material aspects and studies focusing on the immaterial aspects.
According to Varjonen (2000: 7), food culture studies may focus either on food
stuffs and ingredients, or on practices, manners, and norms typical for a nation or a
region. This separation of immaterial and material aspects brings us closer to
ethnology and folkloristic approaches. Mennell, Murcott, and van Otterloo (1992: 7)
connect foodways to anthropology. Fjellström’s interpretation of the term foodways
widens the scope beyond anthropology; according to her, the term foodways is used
primarily in the American context and it covers anthropological, folkloristic and
ethnological approaches referring to food as an element involved in behaviour and
group membership (Fjellström 2009: 19). Knuuttila (1999: 13-16) points out the
Nordic and especially Finnish research tradition in which food culture studies have
been linked more to ethnology than folkloric studies and the emphasis has been on
material aspects and less on, for example, oral tradition. Until the 1970’s, food has
15 been approached mainly as objects and the focus has been on dishes, food
preparation and production. Knuuttila further proposes that despite the tendency
towards material aspects, traditional research also includes immaterial focus, such as
illustrated by etymological studies.
Fourthly, Thursby emphasizes yet other aspects of food culture studies by describing
folkloric studies as foodways. Foodways study the “relationship between people and
their food practices” (Thursby 2008: ix). This relationship between people and food
practices includes also metaphoric and symbolic meanings. Foodways also focuses
on prepared and arranged foods, oral information about food and food-related texts.
In foodways, physical objects, such as dishes and recipes, are called material
folklore. In addition, foodways studies customs, traditions and food as an element in
belief systems and practices. (Thursby 2008: vii-x.)
In sum, the descriptions above approach food related studies as, firstly, an
independent discipline, secondly, as a field that regards food as communication and
focuses on ingredients, etiquette and food rules, taboos and symbols related to food,
and, thirdly, as ethnology, folkloristics and/or anthropology focusing on food stuffs
and ingredients or on practices, manners, and norms typical for a nation or a region.
Fourthly, it includes foodways which focuses on prepared and arranged foods, oral
information about food and food-related texts.
Next, central approaches within sociology of food are described. Firstly, Mennell,
Murcott, and Otterloo (1992: 6-8) see the beginning of the sociology of food to be
linked to the interest in the social welfare and the unequal food distribution. They
link sociology of food to anthropology and semiotics. In their view, its main
approaches are functionalism, structuralism, and developmentalism. Mennell and al.
describe functionalism as an approach in the sociology of food focusing on “how
foodways expressed or symbolised a pattern of social relations” (Mennell & al. 1992:
7). Structuralism, according to Mennell et al., focuses on aesthetic rather than
nutritional aspects of food. A central point of view is taste: “ ‘taste’ is culturally
shaped and socially controlled” (Ibid 8,12). Developmentalism, in terms of Mennell
et al., is an approach that sees cooking as a factor that has influenced the
development of human kind as a species and “affected social organisation and
16 mentality” (Ibid: 14-15). The description of functionalism is close to folkloristic
view of food studies, or foodways, in American terms.
Ashley, Hollows, Jones, and Taylor (2004) use the term “food culture studies” and
divide research into three main approaches: structuralist, culturalist, and hegemonic
(Gramscian) studies. According to Ashley and al. (2004: 7) structuralism includes
different sub-approaches which share an idea of meanings being “the product of
shared systems of signification”. They describe culturalism as an historical process
oriented approach that, unlike structuralism, includes time dimension and interprets
society as a network of rivaling groups with the lower resisting the dominance of the
upper (2004: 8-16). Hegemonic, or the Gramscian, approach attempts to explain
why the so called fundamental social classes are valued by the subordinate ones and
why the latter let the former “exert moral and leadership over” (ibid. 18) themselves.
Hegemonic interpretation of leadership makes this approach ‘the opponent’ of
structuralism and culturalism, which share the idea of dominant groups. (Ibid. 1824.)
Mäkelä (1990), in turn, uses four main categories to describe the sociology of food:
these are 1) structuralistic research according to which food and eating are seen as a
system of signs, 2) eating as a process of civilization which leads to a greater
distance from nature as a function of time, 3) social organization of food choice and
eating, and 4) cultural variation inside given society.
As suggested by these definitions, as far as the focus of the sociology of food is
concerned, it seems to cover a wide range of topics. An important field in the
sociology of food has been family life. Research has focused on, for example, the
power and responsibilities between family members. Mothers have been seen as a
key factor in many approaches focusing on for example meals, health and food as a
status related issue (Mennell et al. 1992: 91-92). Another key area is the concept of
the meal, which will be discussed in more detail in the following sections. (See for
example Mäkelä 2002: 127.)
The present study approaches sociology of food from the social organization point of
view, which, in turn, draws on the structuralistic tradition of interpreting food and
eating and a system of signs. Further, the present study focuses on the meal study
aspect of sociology of food. In this section I have explained the main characteristics
17 of sociology of food. Next, central approaches within the field of sociology of food
will be presented, starting with the structuralistic approach. Then, the Douglas’
model to the analysis of meal will be introduced, followed by an introduction on the
Nordic model to the analysis of the meal, which is an extension of the Douglas’
model. Finally, it is articulated how the present study benefits from the Nordic meal
model.
2.3
Central approaches to the analysis of the meal
This section focuses three approaches that are central for the present study. The
discussed elements include 1) the structuralistic approach, 2) Douglas’ model to the
analysis of the social organization of a meal and 3) Nordic model to the analysis of
the meal.
2.3.1
The structuralistic approach to sociology of food
The structuralist approach to sociology of food has its roots in de Saussure’s
linguistic theories introduced in Course of General Linguistics (1916). Essential
elements in de Saussure’s theory were, on the on the one hand, the attempt to
discover universal rules that communication is based on and, on the other hand, the
relationship between the signifier and the signified, the former being for example a
word and the latter the meaning of the word . In food-related studies the signifier can
be the taste or the smell and the signified an ingredient or a dish. (Ashley 2004: 3-6.)
Compared to language, food ingredients can be described as sounds, dishes as words
and meals as sentences (Mäkelä 1990: 18). In the structuralistic-semiotic approach
food is seen a system of signs. Ingredients, preparation methods, eating, and meal
each represent their own levels at the system of meaning (Mäkelä 1990: 18). The
food-related system of signs is hierarchical: the ingredients must be selected first,
then comes the preparation method and only after that can the meal and eating take
place (Mäkelä 1990: 35). The previous research commonly suggests as the most
influential structuralists Lévi-Strauss and Douglas (see, for example, Mennell et al.
1992: 8, 12). Among the most cited findings by Lévi-Strauss is the culinary triangle,
introduced in 1966, which is a model that describes three types of cooking methods.
18 Douglas is especially known for her model to the analysis of the meal, introduced
1975. This model will be discussed in detail in the following section.
In the context of the present study, the relevance of the structuralistic approach lies in
the fact that the main model of analysis used in it, the Nordic version of the Douglas
model to the analysis of the social organization of the meal, draws on the very
approach.
2.3.2
Douglas’ model to the analysis of the social organization of a meal
According to Mäkelä (2003: 51-52), the social nature of eating can be revealed by
contrasting snacks and meals, the former representing impulsive eating while the
latter is a ritual determined by various rules concerning the sharing of the food and
behavior during eating. Mäkelä further notes that meal studies, or the sociology of
meals, has been one of the central themes in sociology of food since the 1970’s
(Mäkelä 2002: 10).
The most influential paradigm in the field of meal studies is the classification
developed by the social anthropologist Mary Douglas in the 1970’s and different
variations and extensions based on her system (Mäkelä 2002: 10). When Douglas
launched her study on meals, she was puzzled by the fact that, despite the social
dimension of food was generally acknowledged, there was no general theory
established and therefore the knowledge on the social aspect could not be used to
make nutrition programs more effective (Douglas 1982: 82). Douglas sees meal
systems to be culture specific but argues that there is a universal need for some kind
of meal pattern in humans and in human cultures. She makes a distinction between
the aesthetic and nutritional aspects of food, and compares the aesthetic elements and
rules related to food to other domains of cultural rules, namely poetry, music, or
dance (Mennell & al. 1992: 9-11).
For Douglas the rules related to food and eating and the system created by those rules
are a central element of study. Douglas interprets rules regulating meals as
communication and is, with her student Nicod, “interested in the capacity of food to
mark social relations and to celebrate big and small occasions” (Douglas 1982: 85).
19 Douglas introduced a linguistic analogue to analyzing the structure of meals (Mäkelä
2002: 13-14 and 20). Mäkelä enlightens the analogue with the following example:
“each meal follows both syntagmatic and paradigmatic rules. The syntagmatic rules
define the order of the dishes.- - -The paradigmatic rules define what kind of dish can
be eaten in each group.” (2002: 9).
Douglas and Nicod have studied the British meal system especially among the
working class and formed a grammar of meals based on their observations. The
observations included the following dimensions (Douglas 1982, 82-104; Mäkelä
2003, 51-52; Mäkelä 1990, 21 and 30-31; Mennell & al. 1992, 10-11).

time: time of day when eating takes place during the day; differences
between different days of the week, especially Sunday vs. other days;
sequence of holidays and fast; life cycle feasts,

hierarchy of eating events: tea and biscuits representing the lowest and
elaborate festive meals the highest level

meals as indicators of external boundaries: drinks are shared with strangers
whereas meals are for family, close friends and honored guests

meal related rules inside the family; for example for the meal to be qualified
as supper more than one plate of soup required.
Douglas describes four different categories for eating defined by Nicod in the
following way: 1) food event (any instance food is consumed), 2) structured event
(an event organized by time, place and order), 3) meal (both organization and
combination on ingredients and dishes is regulated), and 4) snack (an unstructured
event). Meals are further divided into three types: a) a major meal (of the day), b) a
minor meal, and c) a still less significant meal like a biscuit and a hot drink. In
addition to using the terms introduced by Nicod, Douglas separated meals, courses,
helpings, and mouthfuls (Douglas 1982: 90-91).
Each meal can be further divided into one or several courses, such as starters, main
course and dessert. Further, each course has a certain structure, a specific
combination of the following components: staple, centre, trimming and dressing. The
staple is the starch providing element of the meal, such as potato, cereal or bread.
The centre is the protein part and the one that gives name to the entire meal, for
example meat, fish or egg for the main course and fruit for the dessert. The trimming
20 is the peripheral component of the meal, for example green vegetables, stuffing or
Yorkshire pudding. Dressing can be for example brown gravy, cream or custard.
(Douglas 1982: 93)
For Douglas, oppositions are important, hence the clear separation of drinks and
meals (liquids and solids). As far as food is concerned, Douglas and Nicod focus on
the following binary oppositions: savory/sweet, hot/cold, liquid/dry. (Douglas 1982:
90). The structure of a meal is partially based on the oppositions; meal has to consist
of “both solid and liquid elements, and has to have a dimension of bland, sweet, and
sour” (Mäkelä 2002: 7).
In the analytic model by Nicod and Douglas, each course is analysed individually in
terms of mode, structure and elements. The mode refers to the binary oppositions and
is determined, when applicable, for an individual component of a meal. The structure
combines the course level and the component level; it defines what elements the
course in question consists of and at the same time identifies the role of an
individual component. By the term “element” Douglas and Nicod refer to the actual
foodstuff. (Douglas 1982: 94-95.) For example the major meal of the day could be
analysed in the following way:
1) The meal consists of course 1 and course 2.
2) The structure of course 1 is the following: staple + centre + trimming +
dressing.
3) The mode of the staple component is hot and the element is potato. The
mode of the centre component is savoury and the element is meat. The mode
of the trimming component is not defined but the elements are green
vegetable and Yorkshire pudding. The mode of the dressing component is not
defined and the element is thick brown gravy.
This illustrative analysis is based on the table 4.3 by Douglas (1982: 94).
Douglas and Nicod’s model further includes dimensions for taking into consideration
how complex, copious, and ceremonial a meal is. These dimensions are related to the
21 separation and marking of everyday meals from Sunday and festive meals (Douglas
1982: 109-113).
Douglas’ model is also used by Murcott (1982, as cited by Mäkelä 2003: 52, Mäkelä
2002: 14, Ashley & al. 2004: 124-125) in her analysis of “the proper meal” in Welsh
context. She draws a conclusion that to be considered “a proper meal”, a meal must
firstly include certain elements, namely meat, potatoes, vegetables and sauce.
Secondly, the elements have to be prepared in a certain way, namely everything must
be cooked and not served raw and further the meat is to be cooked in the oven while
vegetables and potatoes are boiled. Finally, the meal is cooked home, preferably by
mother.
The Douglas’ model forms the basis for the model that is discussed in the next
section, namely the Nordic model to the analysis of the meal. The Douglas’ model,
even though not directly used as the framework of the analysis, is important for the
present study because the used model, and therefore also the present study, can be
seen as extensions of the Douglas’ model.
2.3.3
The Nordic model to the analysis of the social organization of meals
Recent Nordic research has attempted to create a model for eating systems by
combining Douglas’s grammar of the meal and the eating context. This extended
model is three-dimensional and consists of the following levels (Mäkelä 2002: 21):

Eating rhythm: when eating takes place and when hot/cold food is consumed.

Structure of the meal: what is the central element of the meal and what
accompanies it (central vs. peripherals), order of elements (starters, main
course, dessert or parallel dishes) and meal types.

Social organization: where and when people eat and who prepares the food.
Mäkelä further separates three dimensions of eating: 1) complexity (food choice,
preparations), 2) sociality (alone, small group, big group), 3) formality (Mäkelä
2002: 22).
22 Reflecting the analytic model suggested by Douglas and Nicod, also the Nordic
model divides meals into courses and courses further into elements. Even though the
model is developed on the basis of the Douglas model, the definitions and possible
elements differ from the original. Firstly, as introduced by Mäkelä (2001: 131), there
are six component categories, namely 1) the centre, 2) staples, 3) vegetables, 4)
trimmings, 5) bread and 6) beverages. Compared to the original, the difference is the
categorization of bread as a separate component type, instead of labeling it as staple.
The difference reflects the different role that bread has in the Nordic food cultures
compared to the British one.
The categories cover the following elements: the centre is typically meat, fish or
vegetables. Staples include potatoes, rice, pasta, beans and lentils. The category of
vegetables is self-explanatory. Trimmings refers to different sauces, pickles and
other minor additions to the meal. Bread is another self-explanatory category.
Beverages cover drinks from alcohol and hot beverages to milk and water and also
include the option no beverage. (Mäkelä 2001: 133.)
In the Nordic context, the definition of proper meal relies partly on the accepted
combinations of the above described categories with the most typical combinations
being Centre + Staple + Vegetable and the former added with a Trimming. In
Finland, uncooked vegetables are accepted as an element in a proper meal in form of
a salad (Mäkelä 2001: 129) The Finnish definition of the proper meal differs from
the original British working class meal also in terms of allowed centres. Firstly, soup
alone is considered a proper meal in Finland, especially in the role of the minor meal
of the day (Mäkelä 2001: 126). Secondly, porridge is also considered an accepted
centre in Finland (Mäkelä 2001: 132).
According to Sjögren-de Beauchaine (1988: 166) meals also function as a marker of
closeness/distance; what and how is served is connected to how close the social
relationships are. In the meal studies, meals and families are often connected to each
other, but meals are shared also by other than family members. Mäkelä suggests that
sharing a meal may evoke a feeling of togetherness that resembles bonding inside
family (Mäkelä 2002: 14.)
The Nordic model is important in the context of the present study because the
dimensions defined in the model form the core of the analytic model used in the
23 present study in the following way. On the one hand, the present study focuses on the
dimension of the structure and attempts to describe in the context of the Christmas
meal descriptions by Finnish bloggers what is eaten and how it is prepared and
served. On the other hand, the present study focuses on the dimension of the social
organization and describes where and when people eat and who prepares the food.
The other two approaches are important as providing the context for the Nordic
model; the Nordic model is an extension of the Douglas model and the Douglas
model is directly connected to the structuralist approach. Therefore, two introduce
the Nordic model in detail, the preceding approach and model need to be enlightened
as well.
24 3
THE SET-UP OF THE PRESENT STUDY
This chapter focuses in outlining the design of the present study in three stages.
Firstly, the chapter presents the aim of the present study and the research questions.
Secondly, the data and the collection process is described. Finally, the method of
analysis is introduced.
3.1
The aim of the present study and the research questions
The aim of the present study is to describe how the Christmas meal related blog
entries written in English by Finnish bloggers represent, on the one hand, the social
organization of the Christmas porridge meal and the main Christmas meal and, on
the other hand, how the blog texts represent and relate to the Finnish Christmas food
tradition.
This outline of the present study is interesting with respect to sociology of food
because of a gap in recent studies on festive meals in terms of the social organisation.
Previous research suggests that the Christmas meal, as a central element related to a
culturally important annual festival, has a special role in the cultural system of meals
both universally (Douglas 1975), and in Finland (Mäkelä 1999, Knuuttila 2004).
Previous research (Douglas 1975, Mäkelä 1990: 47-49 and 76) also suggests that in a
festive context, rules are consciously and faithfully obeyed. Recent meal studies on
the Finnish meals have, however, mainly focused on the everyday meals. By finding
out how the social organization of the Christmas related meals is presented in the
blog texts, the present study attempts to provide new information on the relation the
bloggers have to the Christmas food tradition and how the whether the social
organization of the meals reflects the emphasis on rules as suggested by the theories.
In order to find out the social organisation of the Christmas meals as reflected in the
blogs, the present study attempts to describe what meals the bloggers consider
Christmassy. In addition, once the Christmas related meals suggested by the bloggers
have been described, my aim is to describe the following dimensions of the meals.
25 Firstly, in order to describe the structure of the meals, I will investigate what dishes,
according to the blog entries, the bloggers include on the Christmas meals menu and
how they describe the preparation and serving of the dishes. Secondly, in order to
enlighten the social organization dimension of the meals, I will attempt to find out
what the bloggers tell about the location and participants of the Christmas meals.
Finally, as the third aspect of the social organization of the meals, the focus will be
on what the bloggers write about the person who prepares the meal. These
dimensions reflect the Nordic model to the analysis of the meal as introduced by
Mäkelä in 2002.
Furthermore, the present study attempts to analyse how the descriptions in the blogs
relate to the Finnish Christmas tradition. This is done by comparing the comments
related to the above mentioned themes to the concept of the Finnish Christmas food
tradition as introduced in the second chapter.
In order to provide new information on how the Christmas meal related blog entries
written in English by Finnish bloggers represent, on the one hand, the social
organization of the Christmas porridge meal and the main Christmas meal and, on
the other hand, how the blog texts represent and relate to the Finnish Christmas food
tradition, the analysis is organised around the following main research questions:
1) How do the bloggers name the Christmas food events and what seems to
influence this?
2) What is the structure of the Christmas time meals; what is eaten and how is it
served?
3) What is the social organization of the Christmas time meals? Where and with
whom are the Christmas time meals eaten? Who prepares the food?
4) How do the bloggers represent and relate to the tradition in the blogs?
In order to answer the main research questions, they are further divided into more
narrowed sub-problems in the following way.
26 Research question 1, “How do the bloggers name the Christmas food events and
what seems to influence this?”, is approached by finding out the following:

How do the bloggers describe the food eaten at the meals they call the
Christmas porridge meal or the main Christmas meal?

What kind of information do the bloggers provide with respect to the timing,
location and participants of the Christmas meals?

How do the bloggers describe eating events other than those they name as the
Christmas porridge meal or the main Christmas meal, in other words what
elements seem to cause a food event not to be suitable to be named as a
Christmas meal?

How typically do the bloggers name at least some meals as Christmas meals
of either type?
Research question 2, “What is the structure of the Christmas time meals; what is
eaten and how is it served?”, provides in itself the potential sub-problems:

According to the blogs, what dishes do the bloggers eat at the Christmas
meals? Or, what do the bloggers describe as elements of the traditional menu?

How do the bloggers describe the dishes in terms of ingredients, preparation
or serving?

How do the bloggers describe the rules related to combining the dishes or the
eating order?
Like the previous one, research question 3, “What is the social organization of the
Christmas time meals? Where and with whom are the Christmas time meals eaten?
Who prepares the food?” consists of sub-problems as well. Thus, the analysis will
attempt to answer to the following questions:

What information do the bloggers provide on the location of the Christmas
meals? In what way, if any, they define their relation to the eating place? For
example, is it their home or are they someone’s guests?

How do they describe the participants of the meals? How do they comment
cases of absence?

What information do the blogs provide on the person who prepares the food?
Does the blogger participate in cooking? Does the person responsible for
27 cooking participate in the meal? Does the blogger seem to know who
prepared the food and do they show interest in knowing that?
Finally, the research question 4, “How do the bloggers represent and relate to the
tradition in the blogs?” is divided into following sub-problems:

What elements do the bloggers regard as representing the Finnish Christmas
food tradition?

What kinds of attitude do the entries reflect towards the tradition? Do the
bloggers follow, criticize, ignore or modify the tradition and in what ways?

How do they relate to elements that are present in their Christmas meal events
but that do not represent the tradition?
By answering to the above introduced questions and considering the sub-problems,
the present study attempts to find terms of how the Finnish bloggers describe the
Christmas meals in English and how the descriptions reflect the Finnish Christmas
food tradition.
3.2
Blogs as data
This section focuses on blogs as data. First, the central terms related to blogs as well
as discussion on the definition of personal blogs are introduced. Next, I will review
what the previous research states on the use of blogs as data. This section further
includes four subsections. The first subsection will focus on blogging among Finns.
The following two subsections describe the collection and selection of the data in
two phases. Finally, profiles for selected blogs and bloggers are provided in the
fourth subsection.
3.2.1
Personal blogs and use of blogs as data
The definition of blogs as a genre is not necessarily straight forward. In this study the
focus is on personal blogs which is one sub-genre of blogs. Personal blogs are,
28 according to Miller and Shepherd (2009: 269) and Myers (2009: 2 and 26-27),
internet pages with dated entries in reverse chronological order, usually providing
author’s name and possibility for readers to add commentaries. Typically, but not
necessarily, blogs include links to other pages. To be considered “live”, a blog
should be updated frequently. Keren (2006: 5) emphasizes that blogs tend to be
linked with other blogs creating the so called blogosphere. Bell (2007: 79) enlightens
the related terminology as follows: “The creator is known as a blogger, undertaking
some blogging”.
According to Giltrow and Stein (2009: 8-9), compared to written and spoken genres,
Internet genres in general change constantly and fast, blogs being no exception. On
the one hand, the relationship between personal blogs and an older genre, diary, is
controversial. Some regard blogs as on-line diaries (see for example Keren 2006: 5)
while others classify them specifically not-diaries in order to emphasize difference to
“reputedly trivial, feminine ancestor” (Giltrow and Stein 2009: 17). Vatka (2005:
232) classifies personal blogs as diaries but considers their public nature and
enabling author-reader interaction to be fundamental differences to the traditional
private diary format and sees them in that sense to be closer related to published
diaries.
On the other hand, recent changes in blogging have, according to Tehcnorati report
2010, brought blogging closer to other Internet genres: “Bloggers’ use of and
engagement with various social media tools is expanding, and the lines between
blogs, micro-blogs, and social networks are disappearing.” (Technorati 2010b).
Myers (2009, 19) emphasizes that even though blogs are multimedial, ‘normal’ text
is still an important element in them.
Miller and Shepherd regard personal blogs not as one genre but rather as a group of
genres, or even “a technology, a medium, a constellation of affordances – and not a
genre” (Miller and Shepherd 2009: 283). They name photo blogs and travel blogs, as
well as campaign blogs as examples of personal blogs that do not fit in the original,
online diary type definition of blogs based on the personal blog type, but rather each
form a genre of their own (Miller and Shepherd 2009: 263.)
As far as using blogs as data is concerned, the previous study emphasizes that one
should be careful when attempting to use blogs as a basis to draw conclusions, on the
29 one hand, on the author and, on the other hand, on the blogosphere. Keren notes that
in studying blogs it is important to keep in mind that “we know little of the producers
of blogs besides their nicknames” (Keren 2006: 7). He further notes that
“Generalizations about blogs on the basis of random sampling --- are impossible to
make in the absence of a clear, stable, finite universe of blogs to sample” (Keren
2006: 6-7). Also Myers acknowledges the difficulties in defining a representative
sample in an environment like blogosphere and suggests using “a theoretically
motivated sample” , such as “the most popular, or blogs linked to each other, or
blogs in some unusual form or style, or blogs on a topic” (Myers 2009: 160-161).
The present study attempts to take the above described limitations and notions on the
use of blogs as data into consideration by a theoretically motivated set of data,
namely “food related blogs by Finns” in the initial phase and “Christmas meals
descriptions written at least partially in English language by Finnish writers” in the
latter phase. Further, the present study does not attempt to generalize the findings to
cover other types of blogs.
Myers (2009) discusses how blogs can be located and draws a conclusion that, by
default, blogs are placeless but the author may locate the blog using various
linguistic techniques. As far the language is concerned, however, Myers proposes
that “the language choice does not tell where you are; it tells whom you want to read
your text” (Myers 2009: 56). Blogs, among other internet content, can be also be
defined as glocal, a combination of global and local (Bell 2007: 78). Applying
Myers’ argument on language as a cue to intended readership, one could draw a
conclusion that Finns writing in English direct their words at least partially to
international audiences.
3.2.2
Blogging among Finns
As far as the situation in Finland is concerned, a survey by Statistics Finland, Use of
information and communications technology 2010, covered among other areas also
blogging and reading blogs. According to the survey, 40% of Finns had read blogs,
30 12% had posted a commentary on a blog, and 3% had an own blog during spring
2010 (Suomen virallinen tilasto 2010).
Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat maintains a blog directory blogilista.fi and describes
the list as including Finnish blogs and blogs about Finland. As per September 2011,
the site showed following figures: 37 797 blogs with 4752 entries, 68 new blogs and
55 new users within 24 hours (Ilta-Sanomat 2011).
According to survey Blogibarometri 2010 (Blogibarometri 2010), Finnish bloggers
regard blogging primarily as a hobby. The proportion of bloggers who also receive
financial benefits by blogging is, however, increasing. As far as the motivation for
blogging is concerned, the recipients of the survey list sharing experiences as the
primary reason to keep a blog. Financial benefits, for example in form of free
product samples, was rated second and networking third. The results further suggest
that lifestyle blogs on fashion, style, and beauty are the most popular among readers
with food and hobby focused blogs also gaining wide readership.
As far as blogging in English by Finns is concerned, Nikula and Leppänen (in
Leppänen et al. 2008: 423-424) emphasize the role of English as a tool for
establishing memberships in social communities and constructing identities as well
as an indicator of expertise in a communication situation. They link language choice
to the individual language user’s own aspirations rather than to external factors
forcing language choice or to English as a language being more suitable in certain
domains.
3.2.3
The collection, selection and classification of food related blogs by Finns
This section focuses on the first phases of the process of selecting and collecting the
present data. In order to describe in detail and motivate the decisions I made during
the process, the following discussion is organized into three sections, each covering
one step of the process. Firstly, the discussion covers the description of the initial
focus and details of the first searches which covered food related blogging by Finns
in a broad sense. Secondly, the process of organizing the initial results into seven
31 sub-categories is discussed. Finally, the focus will be on the process of narrowing the
scope into one of the categories, namely the people oriented blogs. The next step of
the data selection and collection, namely, the selection of Christmas meals related
entries as the current data will be illuminated and motivated in the following section
titled as The collection and selection of the Christmas related blog entries by Finns.
The initial scope of the study was rather broad, the initial plan was to study food and
nutrition related blog entries. Tentative searches were carried out in June 2011 using
two methods, namely Google search and by browsing blog directories, in order to
find out what kind of food related blogs or entries were accessible in the
blogosphere. The results were gathered into one pool of potential sample blogs.
In the tentative search phase I accepted as potential candidates blogs that matched the
following criteria: 1) the blog is publicly accessible, 2) the blog includes content on
food related issues, 3) the food related content is written at least partially in English
and 4) the author is Finnish. In this context, it is necessary to emphasize that the
attribute ‘Finnish’ is my interpretation of the author’s linguistic resources, based on
the blog content, rather than an indicator of writer’s actual identity. In my
categorization, a ‘Finnish author’ is one who
a) keeps a bilingual or multilingual blog in which one of languages is
Finnish,
b) keeps several monolingual blogs of which at least one is in Finnish,
c) keeps a blog primarily in English with Finnish as a backup or
explanatory resource, and/or
d) declares Finnish identity either explicitly or implicitly.
An example of type c) in blog 2. Hyperlink ‘rösti’ refers to Wikipedia article is
English.
“There is some blueberry soup (mustikkakeittoa), crisp bread
(näkkileipää), Swedish cider Kopparberg (siideriä), Kalles Caviar
(Kallen mätitahnaa), glogg (glögiä), cow berry jelly (puolukkahilloa),
Swedish meatballs (jauhelihapullia) and rösti.”
32 Examples of type d) in blog 2 and 7.
Blog 2:
We might have dark and cold winter in Finland
After discovering the mustard, i found Finnish coffee! They had almost
everything you could wish to have from back home.
The process of considering the eligibility of a candidate blog in terms of whether the
author’s language repertoire covered Finnish was subjective in nature and relied on
my personal, intuitive interpretation drawing on the language choices and content of
the candidate blog. Therefore it is likely that I have discarded also eligible blogs,
especially in case of monolingual blogs as well blogs by Finns with Swedish as their
mother tongue or bilingual Finns.
The searches were implemented in the following way:
Firstly, I used different combinations of the following keywords in basic Google
searches:
1) keywords in English: “blog”, “Finland”, “Finnish”, “food”, “cuisine”,
“cooking”, “baking”, “weight”, “control”, “watching”, “nutrition”, “diet” and
“special”.
2) keywords in Finnish: ”blogi”, ”Suomi”, ”suomi”, ”suomalainen”, ”ruoka”,
”ruoan”, ”keittiö”, ”kokkaus”, ”ruoanlaitto”, ”leivonta”, ”leipominen”,
”paino”, ”painonhallinta”, ”laihdutus”, ”laihduttaminen”, ”ravinto”,
”ruokavalio”, ”erityisruokavalio” and ”dieetti”.
Secondly, the blog directory browsing included two phases. Firstly, blog directories
were searched by Google search using keywords “blog directory”, “blog list”,
“blogihakemisto” and “blogilista”. In June 2011, the number of hits per keyword in
the Google search was:

“blog directory”
99 000 000 hits

“blog list”
91 100 000 hits

“blogihakemisto” 10 100 hits

“blogilista”
1 210 000 hits
33 Typically, a blog directory includes links to blogs in both alphabetical order and by
category. Categories vary according to directory. I checked categories referring to
food, health, Finland or Finnish (in international directories), and English (in Finnish
directories).
The category search method proved to be rather ineffective for my purposes for
several reasons. Firstly, some of the initial Google search matches were special
directories focusing on different categories of for example financially or technically
oriented blogs. These directories were thus out of my scope. Secondly, some
directories or some blogs required registration in order to open links or view the
content which was in conflict with my idea of using freely available material only.
Thirdly, my combination of criteria was not easily compatible with existing
categories. By selecting relevant categories, I was in most cases able to locate blogs
that matched one of my criteria but not others. And fourthly, links often proved dead,
in other words the search engine contained address and title information of a blog but
the actual blog content was no longer available or the blog contained no entries.
Based on the results of the tentative searches, I could conclude that 1) food related
blog data by Finnish authors are easily accessible in the Internet and thus it seemed
possible to carry out a research on food related blog entries. At the same time, it was
obvious that 2) the data were too heterogeneous for a study of the present scale. In
order to solve the problem of too heterogeneous data, I decided to arrange the
candidate blogs and try to identify sub-groups within the initial data.
The classification of the blogs relied mainly on the topic(s) of the blogs. In the
tentative search results, two main types of food related blogs emerged; those
focusing on 1) nutrition and those emphasizing 2) social, cultural or experience
aspect related to food.
I further divided nutrition type blogs into 1) weight control, 2) special diet and 3)
formal blogs. The blogs of class 1, namely the weight control blogs, focus on
author’s attempt to lose weight. Typically, a blog of this type included information
on author’s weight at certain times as well as the target weight and descriptions of
author’s diet and physical exercise, as well as reflective entries. Content produced by
author was primarily in Finnish. English appeared in mottoes and embedded
technical elements often visualizing the weight loss process.
34 Blogs of class 2, the special diet blogs, were not as common as the previous type. In
my search, low carb and vegetarian oriented blogs were most common but I also
found vegan, allergy related and gluten-free related as well as mixed blogs. These
blogs were typically monolingual (in Finnish) as far as the self-produced text was
concerned. There were, however, links to English material and English recipes were
occasionally embedded in the text.
Formal blogs, identified in this context as class 3, cannot be handled as a single genre
or sub-genre. A typical blog of this type was somehow connected to author’s
professional life or the author was a high profiled enthusiastic. Further, typically
blogs of this type were monolingual with a possible sibling blog providing
alternative language version. It was not clear in all cases whether the blog was
considered a leisure activity or a part of academic or professional life. Topics varied,
but among the typical ones were national health, fats and cholesterol, low carb diet,
reliability of information given to consumers, and criticism towards franchising
groups and food industry.
The remaining blogs, namely blogs focusing on social, cultural or experience aspect
related to food, form a versatile group. I separated four main categories: 4) cuisine
oriented, 5) ingredient oriented, 6) technique oriented and, finally, 7) people oriented
blogs. Cuisine oriented blogs, which form class 4 in my classification, focus on a
certain cuisine. Sometimes broader introductions to the culture are also included,
such as descriptions of the religion or arts history of a relevant culture. Popular
themes seem to be for example different Asian cuisines and Finnish cuisine. In some
blogs photos are a central element, especially if culture is handled in a broader sense.
As far as the use of English is concerned, typically the blogs of this type combined
self-produced English and English in embedded form, such as recipes. These blogs
also frequently featured use of loan words or code-switching (in some cases it was
not clear which was the case).
Class number 5 in my system, namely the ingredient oriented blogs, focus on how to
use, produce or buy a certain ingredient as well as general information on the subject.
Most typical entries are recipes including a certain ingredient. Typical themes are
chili peppers and chocolate, but blogs on soy or tofu, tea, and spices were also found.
35 Technique oriented blogs form class 6. This class includes a popular subcategory,
namely baking blogs which, in turn, consists among others of cake blogs. Other types
are for example BBQ, raw food and smoking blogs. Some blogs focus on equipment
or cooking facilities, for example blogs describing the building of an outdoor kitchen
and learning to use it.
Finally, by people oriented blogs forming class number 7 of the present system, I
refer to blogs which describe food and cooking as a part of either the author’s daily
routine or as a part of different social events. For example wedding blogs often
include entries on the menu and travelling blogs have some commentary on the local
food. Food is also referred to in blogs that represent modern versions of the
traditional diary.
In sum, the as a result of the classification process I identified the following two
main categories and further divided the data into seven classes in the following way:

Blogs focusing on food mainly as nutrition can be identified as 1) weight
control, 2) special diet or 3) formal blogs.

Blogs focusing on social, cultural or experience aspect related to food can be
further labeled as 4) cuisine oriented, 5) ingredient oriented, 6) technique
oriented or 7) people oriented blogs.
Once I had formed the classes, I further checked the usability of the classification by
conducting new Google searches in the form described in the
As stated above, the purpose of classifying the initial data was to identify, within the
food related blogging scene, potential blog types and food related themes for the
present study, bearing on mind especially the small scale of the study. Hence the next
phase was to consider the suitability of each identified category as data for my
purposes. As a result of comparing the candidate data, I decided to focus on people
oriented blogs. The decision process is discussed category by category below,
emphasizing the reasons for not focusing on the rejected classes.
Firstly, as far as the weight control blogs are concerned, the data was homogenous,
even tedious. English content by the author was limited and mostly English appeared
in embedded elements. There was also an ethical issue: in several blogs, the target
weight was significantly below official recommendations and sometimes photos
36 included underweighted people or blogs provided links to so called pro-ana sites
which promote the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. Using material of these blogs
would have required that author’s anonymity could have been guaranteed citations
from the data would have revealed details on the author. So, because of the ethical
issues and small amount of self-produced text in English, I decided not to focus on
this class in this study.
Next, I considered the suitability of class 2, namely the special diet blogs. Regardless
of the language choice, the proportion of cited content seemed high in blogs of this
type. Content in English was typically either copied or contained merely a title
functioning as a link to external content. These blogs would be interesting data for a
study on how Finnish bloggers rely on information in English. My immediate
impression is that in special diet discussion English is often the main language of
facts whereas Finnish is used to describe feelings and possible problems connected
with the diet.
Formal blogs would be interesting for a genre study because entries differ from
stereotypical on-line or blog text. They are often academically formulated with
footnotes and source. A typical entry in these blogs could be published as such and
some of them actually have been published. I decided not to focus on this class
because the contents reflect more the traditions of academic writing than online
communication.
Next I will focus on blogs focusing on social, cultural or experience aspect and
explain why I chose the personal blog type. Internationally, cuisine oriented blogs
seem to be more popular than among Finnish blog keepers. Blogs on Finnish cuisine
are primarily either Finnish-only or by authors who are not Finnish according to my
criteria, for example third generation Americans with Finnish roots but who do not
speak Finnish. These blogs may have Finnish content in dish titles or even as
complete copied recipes. The discussion, however, shows that the author does not
understand the Finnish text. Foreign cuisine blogs could be suitable data for
multilingualism study as they mix Finnish and the language connected to the cuisine
they describe. Blogs on Finnish cuisine by foreign authors or tourists visiting Finland
could provide material for study on use of Finnish in international context by non-
37 Finnish-speaking bloggers. For linguistic reasons this category did not fit into my
scope.
The next category, ingredient oriented blogs, includes typically blogs with a lot of
material, be it recipes, photos, links or other content. List formation seems popular.
These blogs are often tightly networked and reference and quote each other
frequently. Ingredient oriented blogs could be used for a study like this, but the data
found in my tentative search proved rather homogenous linguistically. As one
category in a broader genre study, for example, ingredient blogs could be more
suitable data.
Technique oriented blogs are a good candidate for data. Especially cake blogs form a
group that offers enough material and is at the same time homogenous enough for
reasonable comparison. At the same time some blogs are very limited in the amount
of content, especially those describing a certain project. Their life span is short and
sometimes majority of content is photos. From my point of view, Finnish language is
too prominent in cake blogs. But by changing my point of view I could use cake
blogs, for example by extracting elements that the bloggers seem to acquire from
foreign blogs or other foreign source. A common feature among Finnish cake
bloggers is a tendency to follow international scene and buy equipment and raw
material overseas or try to learn foreign techniques. It is yet uncertain, though,
whether these intercultural and international elements are reflected in the language of
the blogs.
People oriented blogs represent blogs of all types, my search focuses on a narrow
part of posts in those blogs. In most cases it would not do justice to label them as
“food blogs” of any type. In a way, people oriented blogs can be seen a modern
version of traditional diaries, a typical blog includes entries on many aspects of an
individual’s life and the point of view is subjective and personal. Linguistically this
group is heterogeneous but a common factor is that majority of the text body is
produced by the author. This is central for me: I am most interested in how the
authors actually form their ideas in English, not as much in their willingness and
abilities to access resources in English or embed external English elements.
38 3.2.4
The collection and selection of the Christmas related blog entries by
Finns
The previous section focused on the initial phase of the data collection. In this
section I will explain how the search was narrowed to focus on Christmas meal
descriptions.
After completing the initial phase, I trusted on the blogosphere to include food
related blogs by written by Finns in English. Next, I wanted to isolate a food cultural
element that was 1) significant within the Finnish cultural system of food, 2)
interesting in relation to multicultural expected audience, in other words an element
that is interpreted culture-specifically in Finland, 3) was searchable within the
blogosphere, in other words an element that can be approached with a reasonable set
of keywords and 4) relevant in terms of sociology food which I planned to use as the
means of analysis.
I chose intuitively the following elements of the Finnish food culture as potential
point of interest for my study: 1) use of sausages, 2) elements linked to acquired taste
such as liquorice/salmiac and the Finnish Easter pudding mämmi, 3) the Finnish
tradition on serving coffee and 4) the Christmas meal tradition. I then made tentative
searches based on the intuitive list and found the Christmas theme to produce
suitable data for my purposes for the following reasons.
Firstly, using blog entries written in English by Finns interests me because of the
freedom the genre gives to the writer. It is reasonable to assume that the writers have
been able to freely choose whether they want to keep a blog, what they write about
and, within their language repertoire, what language(s) they choose to use. Thus, the
Christmas meal descriptions produced within such a high degree of freedom are
suitable material for study that enlightens the questions of what they consider worth
writing about their Christmas meals. Christmas related texts produced in more
controlled contexts, such as school assignments, could more easily reflect the
interpretation of Christmas imposed on the writers externally. The present data is
more likely to represent the spontaneous relation the writers have to the Christmas
tradition and how they interpret the rules related to Christmas food and meals.
39 Secondly, being publicly accessible entries, the use of the data can be ethically
justified; the writers have deliberately chosen to publish the texts so that they are
available to any user of the internet.
Thirdly, the concept of the traditional Finnish Christmas meal is suitable for my
purposes for several reasons. To begin with the sociology of food perspective, the
previous research on the Finnish food culture the Christmas meal is a seen as
representing the core of the Finnish national food culture. Previous study further
suggests that in Finland the Christmas tradition is a homogenous and lists the key
elements of the Christmas menu. Thus, based on the previous research, the Christmas
meal can be seen as an important aspect of the Finnish food culture and therefore
suitable as a focus of study. On a more technical level, the data were searchable
within the blogosphere because the existing definitions and descriptions of the
Finnish Christmas meal tradition provided potential keywords which, in different
combinations, could be used to formulate searches so that the results matched my
criteria reasonably effectively.
The present data was collected between June and August 2011 using Google’s text
search. Different combinations of the following keywords were used: “Christmas”,
“ham”, “gingerbread house”, “dinner”, “blog”, “Finland”, “Finnish”, “joulu”,
“kinkku”, “piparkakkutalo”, “joulupöytä”, “blogi”, “Suomessa”, “suomalainen”.
Data consists of Christmas food related entries in 13 publicly accessible blogs by
Finnish authors.
3.2.5
The profiles of the selected blogs and the bloggers
This section includes descriptions of the 13 blogs and bloggers referenced in this
study. The descriptions focus on their Christmas related postings. Here I have drawn
conclusions from the immediate texts and pictures rather than from any background
information provided by the blogger elsewhere in the blog. The reason for this is that
the life spans of the source blogs vary with some blogs covering several years.
Bloggers may update any personal information at any point and typically blogs only
show the latest version of these postings. That is why there is no guarantee that the
40 personal information provided in the background information section applies to the
Christmas related posting(s) I refer to.
The bloggers focus on different themes and there are differences in what information
they give. The blog descriptions below reflect the heterogeneity; each description
covers at least some but typically not all of the following aspects. Firstly, the
descriptions include comments on the language(s) used and my interpretation or
blogger’s comments of the intended audience. Photos are commented only if they are
relevant to the analysis of the blog in question. The blogger descriptions include
aspects that are relevant from the sociology of food perspective, such as information
on the gender, age, marital status and social network of the blogger as well as
information on where the blogger celebrates the Christmas.
Blog 1
The blog is bilingual and written in Finnish and in English. There are several photos
taken by either the blogger or a family member featuring the family and the location.
Some culturally bound concepts and habits are opened in a way that suggests an
international target audience: ”In Finland, Santa visits on Christmas eve”. Reader
comments suggest that the blog attracts readers who know the blogger and the family
personally and that the readers form an international network featuring among others
Finnish expats and non-Finnish readers. The style of the actual postings is neutral in
that sense. For example, the blogger refers to her family members with kinship terms
but the readers tend to use first names.
The blogger is a female representing the classical nuclear family; she has a husband
and a young child. By profession the blogger is a pastor. The blogger does not
specify where the family normally resides but the text suggests that not in Lapland
where they spend the holiday. The Christmas posting referenced in this study
actually covers two Christmases. The opening section of the posting functions as a
Christmas card or a Christmas greeting and is a description of the previous Christmas
which the nuclear family and some members of the maternal side of the extended
family have spent at a rented cottage in Lapland in Finland. The latter part focuses on
41 the current Christmas which the nuclear family spends with the paternal side of the
extended family.
The blog was referenced on August 10, 2011.
Blog 2
The blog is monolingual and written in English with Finnish and occasionally other
languages appearing in individual terms in expressions like “the Christmas Ham
(joulukinkku)”. The text suggests that the target audience is international, but at the
same intimate; the blogger attempts to provide potential Finns in Canada with tips on
how to locate Finnish food stuff, but also explains Finnish and Scandinavian
Christmas habits to people with other backgrounds.
The blogger is a male. He does not specify his marital status or whether he has
children but apparently shares a flat with a female. He works in Canada but the blog
is categorised as a travel blog which could suggest that the blogger only plans to stay
a limited period in Canada. The blogger spends the Christmas with his female
flatmate and with some other people. They share preparation duties. The place of
celebration is not specified, but it is probably the home of one or some members of
the preparation team.
The blog was referenced on August 10, 2011.
Blog 3
The blog is bilingual and written in English and in Finnish. The blog is fictitious and
describes the life of a teddy bear family. The target audience can be determined at
several levels: firstly, the blog is targeted to teddy bear and/or miniature enthusiasts
as there are detailed photos on the teddy bears and their dollhouse home as well as
bears posing in different locations. Secondly, the blog apparently reflects the life of
the actual blogger behind it; the teddy bears participate in different real-life events
and travel, and the text and photos describe those events and trips. Thus the blog can
be read as a personal blog as well. As far as the target audience is concerned, the
main aspect is probably the interest in the production of the miniature teddy bears
42 and their equipment and creating and documenting scenes with the objects. The
nationality of the readers and their intimacy to the blogger are secondary.
The protagonist of the blog is a female teddy bear living with her husband in Finland.
The couple either have no children or the children are already adults living on their
own. During the Christmas the protagonist entertains in her house family members
from Italy.
The blog was referenced on August 10, 2011.
Blog 4
The blog is bilingual and written in English and in Finnish. The blogger specifies the
primary target group of her Christmas posting in the following way: “And my
english readers, try to bear with me. This post is mainly for those readers who are
looking for tips where to eat in England. Thank you.” It remains uncertain whether
the term “english” refers to all readers of the parts written in English or to residents
of UK or England only.
The blogger is a middle-aged female with a partner and apparently no children. She
is a seamstress and a make-up artist by profession. She lives in Finland but spends
the Christmas season in Britain. The blogger’s partner is of the British origin, but the
blogger does not specify whether they meet her partner’s family members during
their stay in the UK. The Christmas meal takes place at a restaurant.
The blog was referenced on August 10, 2011.
Blog 5
The blog is bilingual and written in English and in Finnish with occasional
differences between the language versions. The initial purpose of the blog has been
technical; the blogger originally used it for testing purposes. He continues blogging,
however, and my impression is that he expects a typical reader to be someone he
knows also in real life or who is somehow connected to the blogger’s professional
network. The text suggests that the expectation for knowledge on the Finnish culture
is low, for example the process of preparing the ham is carefully documented. The
blogger relies on photos and uses external links.
43 The blogger is a middle-aged male living with his partner. They have no children.
They spend the Christmas primarily at home and they prepare a complete meal and
put up decorations for the two of them. The Christmas time also involves some
visiting.
The blog was referenced on August 10, 2011.
Blog 6
The blog is monolingual in English. Photos by the blogger and family members form
an important element of the posting. The blogger provides background information
on the Finnish customs, which suggests that the intended audience is international.
The information is formulated for readers with little knowledge on Finland, for
example “the declaration of Christmas peace. It has been declared from the town of
Turku since the middle ages, and is a huge part of the Finnish Christmas tradition.”
The blogger profile resembles in some respect similar that of blogger (1); a mother of
a nuclear family and a priest by profession. The blogger’s age is not specified. The
nuclear family visits the blogger’s parents and grandparents and also enjoys meals
there but they probably return home to sleep. In any case all the locations are close to
each other, within the same town.
The blog was referenced on August 10, 2011.
Blog 7
The blog is monolingual, in English. The primary target group is probably intimate,
consisting of the blogger’s close ones in Finland and possibly an international circle
of friends.
The blogger is a young single female who studies in China and is about to start in a
new job there. Her childhood family is not in China. She spends the Christmas in a
group of four females with Finnish first names – apparently with two flatmates and a
friend of either flatmate.
The blog was referenced on August 10, 2011.
Blog 8
44 The blog is primarily in English but includes a brief summary of the Christmas meal
in dialectal Finnish. The primary audience is probably a circle of pet enthusiasts and
thus known to the blogger, but not necessarily to the entire family. The conversation
between the blogger and the readers is in English.
The blogger is a mother of a nuclear family and the blog suggests that pets are also
considered important members of the family in that households. The nuclear family
spends the Christmas at home but the blogger and her husband visit the husband’s
childhood family and enjoy a Christmas meal there.
The blog was referenced on August 10, 2011.
Blog 9
The blog is monolingual in English. The blog includes two lengthy Christmas related
postings and the style approaches educational blogs but the personal level is also
strongly present. The intended audience is international and the writer assumes
practically no knowledge on the Finnish food culture from her readers. The postings
have encouraged several readers to comment and also the commentary section
reflects internationality and multiculturalism.
The blogger is a female. Her description is a combination of general information of
national and regional traditions as well as those that the blogger follows or
remembers from previous self- experienced Christmases.
The blog was referenced on August 10, 2011.
Blog 10
The blog is bilingual but each posting is typically monolingual and either in English
or in Finnish. The blog apparently functions as a diary or a family album for the
family themselves and also as a news channel for their friends and relatives. The
expected audience consists of real life contacts. The bloggers seem to assume that
readers know the Finnish way of life and Christmas tradition even though the
postings suggest that the blog is also directed to friends acquired during the sailing
trip and thus not necessarily Finnish.
45 The blog is kept by a couple who are with their children on a sailing trip round the
world. During the Christmas the family are at a harbour in New Zealand and spend
the Christmas on the boat.
The blog was referenced on August 11, 2011.
Blog 11
The blog is primarily bilingual and written in English and in Finnish. Some Italian
text also appears in the blog in an embedded Christmas card element. The intended
audience is intimate but the writer is aware of the possibility of a wider readership.
The main function of the blog is to document the growing process and life of the son
of the family; there is for example a table describing the growth and most of the
photos are of the child. The blog also functions as a channel to keep in touch with the
friends in Finland. Reader comments are typically in Finnish and suggest that the
readers know the writer personally.
The literal text suggests that the family as a whole contributes to the blogging but the
impression is still that it is only the Finnish mother of the family who actually posts
to the blog. During the time of the Christmas posting referenced in this study the
family is living as expats in Italy. The family also has a home in Finland. The posting
does not specify which home is the place of Christmas preparations and celebration.
The blog was referenced on August 11, 2011.
Blog 12
The blog is written in three languages, namely Finnish, English and Swedish, of
which the primary one is Finnish. The sections in English and Swedish are shorter
than the one in Finnish and symmetrical with each other. The blogger expects the
readers to be interested in the blogging genre. She comments and recommends other
blogs and evaluates her own quality and motivations as a blogger both in the
technical and the content sense. The function of the blog seems to be a diary with a
self-developing emphasis; the blogger wants to develop as a blogger and in foreign
languages but also document and share her experiences. The blogger keeps at least
four blogs.
46 The blogger is a female who has a child. At the time of the posting referenced in this
study she lives in a relationship. The blogger spends the Christmas at home with at
least her partner. She does not specify whether the child is also there.
The blog was referenced on August 11, 2011.
Blog 13
The blog is bilingual and written in English and in Finnish. The text suggests that the
writer assumes at least some of her readers to have little knowledge on Finland and
the Finnish Christmas tradition. The style of the blog is two-folded; for the most it is
written in the form of precise report and focuses on when-what-where-who but there
is also a reflection on the blogger’s feelings and hopes concerning Christmas.
The blogger is a female having a partner. The couple stay together the entire
Christmas season and commute heavily between family members.
The blog was referenced on August 23, 2011.
The following table 1 provides information on the gender, marital status, place of
residence and the location where the blogger celebrates the Chrismas.
Blog
Gender
Marital status
#
1
Place of
residence
Female
Married with
Unspecified
children
2
Christmas location
Male
Unspecified
A rented cottage in
Lapland
Canada
Home (or friend’s
home)
3
Female
Married
Finland
Home
4
Female
In a relationship
Finland
UK, a restaurant milieu
5
Male
Married
Finland
Home, visits extended
family
6
Female
Married with
Finland
children
7
Female
Single
Visits extended family
within one town
China
Home and public
venues in China
8
Female
Married with
Finland
Home, visits extended
47 children
9
Female
Married with
family in another town
Finland
Home
A boat, sailing
Home (= On the boat in
round the world
New Zealand)
Italy
Home either in Italy or
children
10
Several
Nuclear family
writers
11
Female
Married with
children
12
Female
In a relationship,
in Finland
Finland
Home
Finland
Visits extended family
has a child
13
Female
In a relationship
in several towns
TABLE 1 Blogger profiles in the present data
3.3
Method of analysis
The analysis method of the present study is qualitative content analysis. The analysis
model is derived from the Nordic model to the analysis of the social organization of
the meal (Mäkelä 2002).
The discussion on the source blogs is arranged by grouping the blogs; each element
of analysis is reflected on applicable blogs rather than each blog being discussed
separately.
As introduced by Mäkelä (2002: 21) and discussed earlier in the present study, the
Nordic model consists of three dimensions. Two of these dimensions are used in the
present study. Firstly, the dimension related to the structure of the meal. This covers
the investigation of what is the central element of the meal and what accompanies it,
order of elements (starters, main course, dessert or parallel dishes) and meal types.
Secondly, the present study focuses on the social organization dimension. This
covers the investigation of where and when people eat and who prepares the food. In
the present study, research question 2 is based on the Nordic model’s dimension of
48 the structure of the meal, while research question 3 is based on the Nordic model’s
dimension of the social organization of the meal.
The analysis of the structure and social organization of the meals focuses on two
meals, the Christmas porridge meal and the main Christmas meal. Research question
1 identifies the food events that the bloggers regard as either of these meals. The first
part also focuses on describing the naming rules suggested by the bloggers. Thus, the
first part of the analysis focuses on isolating the sections that describe Christmas
meals and which can be further analyzed using the Nordic model.
Finally, the research question 4, “How do the blogger’s represent the tradition in the
blogs?” When attempting to answer this question, I will mainly rely on the findings
produced by the previous phases of the analysis and compare those findings to the
concept of the Christmas tradition as introduced in the Theoretical background
chapter of the present study.
.
49 4
ANALYSIS
4.1
4.1.1
The analysis of the social organization of the Christmas porridge meal
The naming of the porridge meal
According to the bloggers, the rice porridge meal, or the Christmas porridge meal,
takes place in the Christmas Eve in the morning or at noon. The bloggers refer to the
Christmas porridge tradition as the marker of the beginning of the actual Christmas
time. The porridge meal seems rather fixed as far as the centre and the timing are
concerned: the centre is rice porridge and it is served before afternoon of the 24th
December.
Blog 2: We are going to start the Christmas on 24th with Christmas porridge.
Blog 9: Christmas Eve starts with eating rice porridge.
In the citations above, the bloggers draw a direct connection between the porridge
meal and the beginning of the Christmas Eve: the Christmas starts when the porridge
is served and that event also turns that day into the actual Christmas Eve, regardless
of the exact timing. In the households that follow the porridge tradition the morning
hours before the porridge seem to lack the special Christmas spirit.
There seems to be some flexibility in the timing but the porridge is definitely served
on the 24th and not very late in the afternoon. The data suggests that the porridge
meal may function as the minor meal of the day and it may replace either a normal
breakfast or lunch or it can be added as an extra meal in the meal system.
Blog 13: My mother and my partner were waking little by little and my mother
started to make Christmas porridge (rice pudding). We ate a little bit
breakfast and drank coffee before the porridge was ready. about 10:00am
the porridge was ready and we ate the "second breakfast" :D
Blogger 13 describes her Christmas schedule in detail. In her system the porridge
represents “the second breakfast”, characterized with a laughing emoticon. The
emoticon could suggest that there was no need for the porridge meal in terms of
50 energy or nutrition; porridge combined with a normal breakfast represents the
abundance which is one aspect of a festive feeling.
51 4.1.2
The structure of the porridge meal
In this section, the analysis focuses on what is the structure of the Christmas porridge
meal; what is eaten and how it is served.
According to the blogs, the centre of the porridge meal is fixed: it is rice porridge.
The tradition includes also other kinds of porridge and the title “Christmas porridge”
would easily cover those as well, but there are references to neither barley nor oat in
the blogs. Typically, the concept of the Christmas porridge or rice porridge is not
explained at all in the blogs as far as the centre is concerned. Instead, porridge as a
dish type seems to be assumed self-explanatory by the bloggers. For example, writers
do not specify the ingredients or the preparation technique of the porridge except
blogger 2, who has included the below cited recipe for the porridge, perhaps as a tip
for non-Finnish audience and also as a side product of his personal preparations for
the Christmas.
“”CHRISTMAS RICE PORRIDGE”
Traditional Finnish Christmas dish.
300 ml water
150 ml short grain rice
700 ml whole milk
Bring water to the boil in the saucepan. Add the rice and cook, stirring,
until water is wholly absorbed in it. Add the milk and bring the mixture
to the boil again, stirring frequently.
Lower the heat to minimum, cover the pan with lid and simmer for
about 40 to 60 minutes, or until the rice and milk have thickened into a
soft-textured, velvety smooth porridge. Stir every now and then to
prevent the porridge from burning on the bottom or forming a skin on
the surface. Season with a little salt, sugar and a pat of butter.”
Porridges can be prepared also in the oven and milk is not the only liquid alternative,
but the preparation motivates no discussion at all. This suggests that porridge
52 requires little planning and consideration by the bloggers and it is likely that the
porridges mentioned in the blogs all represent the type of the recipe above.
Bearing on mind the fact that the porridge related descriptions are written in English
by Finnish writers and therefore potentially for readers with limited knowledge on
the Finnish food culture, there is a potential cultural gap. From the meal study
perspective the assumption of porridge as a centre of a meal being self-explanatory
may be challenging for the international audience: the porridge meal type is very
Nordic in nature and represents a meal type of its own in the Nordic model. In the
British system, for example, there is no meal type with porridge as the centre of the
meal. Therefore it is not problematic for a Finnish person to regard porridge as an
independent dish but it may be a very novel idea of a meal for some readers.
As far as the trimmings are concerned, bloggers provide more details on them than
on the centre. The tradition of hiding the almond is described in some blogs and as
the “proper” trimmings and/or condiments the bloggers accept butter, milk and
cinnamon. Mixed fruit soup is mentioned in blog 9:
Christmas Eve starts with eating rice porridge with cinnamon or sugar –
or “sekametelisoppa” (something like “assorted noise soup”) a.k.a.
sekahedelmäkeitto (mixed fruit soup).
Blogger 6 provides a detailed description on how the porridge was and is to be
enjoyed, including the almond tradition with a modern, humorous interpretation:
“Some of us covered their porridge in cinnamon but still wouldn't give away the
cinnamon cup. You are supposed to put sugar and cinnamon on top of your porridge
and milk on the sides. Whoever gets an almond in his/her porridge gets to make a
wish or if I get it it's usually a sign of me getting to wash the dishes. No almond
in this year's porridge, so it's not even a real Christmas porridge! Hmmpf!”
Even though trimmings are discussed in the blogs, the bloggers skip all comments on
combinatory rules. This is easily understandable: it is not customary in Finland to
combine rice porridge with another centre at a meal or to use rice porridge as a staple
for meat or fish. Internationally, that is always the case. Blog 13 includes the
following comment by a Taiwanese reader concerning rice porridge:
53 “And that rice porridge for breakfast sounds very interesting - how funny, the
Taiwanese also eat a kind of rice porridge for breakfast! Do you have it plain? Is it
sweet or savoury? We have ours plain but with savoury accompanients, like pickle
and shredded pork and salty egg”
The porridge meal described in the reader comment is not typical, probably not even
existent, in the Finnish meal system and certainly not a traditional Christmas dish. By
coincidence, the dish referred to by the Taiwanese reader combines the centres of
Finnish Christmas time meals: the rice porridge and the pork. In the Finnish
Christmas food tradition rice porridge can be served as the centre of the separate
porridge meal but also as one element of the dessert selection during Christmas. It is
not, however, seen compatible with ham.
As stated previously, the data suggests that the bloggers assume the Christmas
porridge meal as an entity to be a familiar concept to the Finnish audience and seem
to regard it as a national tradition, in other words they did not refer to the porridge
meal as representing their family tradition. When bloggers provide more information,
it regards the serving rules and in one blog also the recipe. The latter example could
reflect the fact that the preparation process is new to the blogger.
54 4.1.3
The Social organization of the porridge meal
In this section, the analysis focuses on where and with whom the Christmas porridge
meal is eaten and who prepares it.
The Christmas porridge event may also involve several households. Blog 6 includes
a photo of the porridge event. The blogger names participants and specifies the
seating order but there is no comment on whether this specific seating order is
traditional or not.
Blog 6: Anyway here's a picture of gang having rice porridge
Blog 6: We were invited for Christmas porridge at my parents house, so I didn't
make any myself this year.
The citation suggests that this is not an automatic tradition. The blogger does not
explicate the reason for gathering for the porridge. At a later point, however, when
describing the dinner, she mentions her mother’s absence from the dinner:
Blog 6: My mom was at work so present at the Christmas dinner were…
I interpret the porridge gathering as a possibility to share a meal with the whole
group; as the mother of the blogger cannot join them for the dinner, the porridge
meal functions as a replacing collective meal. Yet it is not named the Christmas meal
or Christmas dinner. Is thus seems that the porridge meal cannot replace the main
Christmas meal even though the naming pattern of the latter indicates flexibility as
4.2
4.2.1
The analysis of the social organization of the Christmas meal
The naming of the Christmas meal
In this section, the analysis focuses on the rules that define the naming of the
Christmas meal. According to the bloggers, typically at least one meal during the
Christmas season is named the Christmas meal or the Christmas dinner or the
bloggers in other ways define one or some meals they enjoy during the Christmas
season as a meal with a special ceremonial value.
55 Blog 1:
We rented a cottage and ordered a ready made Christmas meal
Blog 2:
We are now pretty much ready for the Scandinavian Christmas dinner
on Wednesday
Blog 3:
So the head became a part of the Christmas dinner menu with
traditional Finnish ham, salmon, potatoes and some cheese. The dinner
buffet was so popular that the queue continued all the way to the living
room.
Blog 4:
During the Christmas season you should also try famous english
christmas meal, roast turkey dinner…Ours was served by rustic Bolney
Stage where service was excellent.
Blog 6:
My mom was at work so present at the Christmas dinner were…
The following blogger does not use the term Christmas meal or dinner but his
description of the Christmas Eve is ham-centered and emphasizes the ham, eating
and abundance:
Blog 5:
Tonight we are going to drop the ham to the oven for an overnight roast
and then tomorrow we start eating more than we should.
Even though it seems that the Christmas dinner is an obligatory part of a Finnish
person’s meal system, the blogs suggest that there is a certain degree of flexibility in
the naming pattern.
The first rule that the blogs suggest has already been referred to above in the porridge
meal section, namely that despite the company and the setting, the Christmas
porridge meal cannot be named the Christmas meal. Even though the Christmas
porridge seems to have a strong Christmassy association among the bloggers, as a
meal it cannot be the main meal of the Christmas celebration. My conclusion is that
this naming rule reflects the status of the porridge in relation to other types of dishes:
the blogs thus suggest that porridge cannot function as the centre of the Christmas
meal even if it is the most Christmassy meal the blogger enjoys during the holiday
season. Acceptable centres will be discussed in detail in the following section that
focuses on the structure of the Christmas meal.
56 The second rule is related to the company. The blogs suggest that the naming pattern
reflects the social network of the blogger in three ways. Firstly, the bloggers name as
the Christmas meal the meal they share with the people emotionally closest to them,
in other words the partner, the children, other family members and in-laws.
According to the bloggers they are aware if some members of the innermost social
circle are not present and these omissions often seem to require some kind of
explanations. Omissions of the close ones do not prevent the naming of a meal as the
Christmas meal, though.
Secondly, the bloggers may refer to several meals as the Christmas meal if they
enjoy meals with different people. There were no blogs with exactly the same
company enjoying several Christmas meals whereas bloggers who moved between
places during the holiday typically reported having several Christmas meals. There
were also blogs in which the meal was split and the company or at least the blogger
and her immediate company moved to another place between different parts of the
meal.
Blog 8:
And we had our last Christmas meal of the year here.
Blog 13:
3:00pm My sister and her children came for a Christmas meal.
about 5:00pm we moved to my sister to Littoinen and drank coffee
there.
Thirdly, the Christmas meal may take place even if the close ones are not present. In
that case the closest people available are accepted as the Christmas meal company.
4.2.2
The structure of the Christmas meal – what is eaten
In this section, the analysis focuses on what is the structure of the Christmas meal,
especially on what is eaten. As far as the menu is concerned, the Christmas meals
represented in the blogs can be divided into two categories, namely the menus that
are versions of the traditional Finnish Christmas menu and those that represent
another type of a menu.
57 The traditional menu is featured in blogs 1-3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, and 13. The amount of
information given on individual dishes varies between the blogs. At the other
extreme is, for example, blogger 1 who simply refers to what is eaten as “a ready
made Christmas meal” and at the other blogger 9, who provides careful descriptions
on several dishes. Typically, the bloggers describe some dishes in a detailed way and
refer to the rest in a more general manner.
Blogs 4, 7, 10, and 12 feature untraditional Christmas menus. The menu described in
blog 4 is a traditional Christmas menu but represents the British tradition with turkey
as the centre. The menu in blog 12 combines some elements from the traditional
Christmas menu as well as modern Western festive delicacies. The menu described
in blog includes one element that is an adaptation of a dish familiar from the Finnish
menu, namely fish dishes. Finally, the menu in blog 7 is not special festive menu in
any food culture.
In the discussion below, the analysis focuses first on the traditional menus and then
moves to menus that are untraditional in the Finnish Christmas context.
The blogs suggest that the core dishes or ingredients of the traditional Finnish
Christmas menu are the ham, casseroles and the rosolli salad. There are further two
central fish species that have a Christmassy connotation, namely salmon and herring.
The former, according to the blogs, is accepted to the Christmas table salted, raw
spiced, or smoked whereas herring is used in spicy cold dishes.
In addition to the above mentioned core dishes, which seem to enjoy the status of a
Christmas dish, there are dishes that the bloggers declare Christmassy with less
certainty. For example Carelian meat stew and Italian salad represents this type of
dishes.
The blogs further suggest that coffee and desserts form an optional part of the menu;
a menu without any dessert type dishes is considered a full one but it is also
acceptable to consider different pastry and puddings as parts of the actual Christmas
meal. A typical approach to this, among the bloggers, is to draw at least a faint line
between the other part of the meal and the coffee and dessert part. The data further
suggests that dishes with the dessert status are not selected at the same time with the
other dishes. The other dishes are eaten first and the dessert type dishes follow either
58 immediately or, perhaps more typically, after some time. The definition of the
Christmas coffee menu seems vaguer than the basic menu of the Christmas meal.
The centre of the entire menu is the ham. Bearing in mind Mäkelä’s (2002: 13)
definition for the serving style, however, makes it possible to separate from the menu
several centres. Mäkelä suggests that even though all dishes are available for free
combination, typically a diachronic style is followed at the Christmas table, and thus
the meal can be seen as a combination of three courses, namely cold fish and meats
as course one, then the hot dish as course two and finally dessert as the third course.
(Mäkelä 2002: 13.) Despite ham actually being typically served cold, it is the centre
of the main course, course two. The centre of the starter course, course one, could be
salmon or another fish dish or perhaps a cold meat dish. The data does not include
references to a separate course one, though.
Blogger 9 provides a very detailed description on the Christmas meal tradition of her
family and writes on many dishes as well as how she is used to serving them. She
makes it clear that the centre of the Christmas meal is the ham and that the role of the
other dishes is to accompany the ham:
Blog 9:
What my family has on the table is of course the ham… Besides ham,
there are different casseroles
The bloggers vary in how and whether they refer to the concept of the Christmas
casseroles and therefore the concept can and perhaps needs to be approached from
different angles also in the analysis, namely as a general dish type, individual dishes
or as an automatic element in the traditional menu. Among the bloggers, blogger 9
provides the most detailed description of the casseroles and her interpretation of the
selection of the possible Christmas casseroles is also likely to be the widest among
the bloggers.
Blog 9:
Besides ham, there are different casseroles: Swedish turnips, carrots
(with rice or sometimes without), potatoes (it’s made to be a bit sweet)
and in some parts liver too (this too contains also rice). Last year we
added a new one to our selection: Sweet potato casserole – yummy!
When I was a kid my father’s mom used to make a macaroni casserole
59 with sugar but no meat. It was always a part of the Christmas dinner –
so maybe that’s a tradition in Middle Finland, I really don’t know.
For this blogger there seems to be three central casseroles, namely Swedish turnip or
more commonly rutabaga, carrot and potato casseroles. For the carrot casserole she
accepts two versions, with or without rice but for the potato casserole she seems to
accept only the sweetened version. My interpretation is that these three casseroles,
with alteration allowed in terms of rice and sweetness, form the core group of
casseroles also for the other bloggers, who often choose to refer to them as group or
simply include them in the general term Christmas food or Christmas groceries. For
example blogger 5 uses the latter strategy in English:
Blog 5:
We shopped the last remaining groceries for Christmas dinner ... now
we have all the traditional Finnish Christmas items on the menu.
In the Finnish section, however, he is more specific:
Blog 5:
Nyt ollaan saatu jouluruokien shoppailut päätökseen.. nyt on rosollia,
graavikalaa, laatikoita ja muita jouluherkkuja jääkappi täynnä.
In the Finnish section of his blog the blogger opens the concept of “the traditional
Finnish Christmas items on the menu” to cover among other dishes the rosolli salad,
rawpickled fish and casseroles. Still, he does not specify what kinds of casseroles his
menu covers.
The data suggests that casseroles as a dish type belong to the Christmas table but that
for many bloggers it does not seem relevant to further specify or describe the
particular casserole selection of their own. My own interpretation, partly based on
the photos included in the blogs, is that when no further definition or description is
provided, the menu includes rutabaga, carrot and/or potato casserole in any
combination.
In blog 9 the fourth casserole, namely liver, is mentioned but my impression is that
the blogger has seen it being served as a Christmas dish but does not include it in her
own menu. I interpret “in some parts” as a reference to regional variation in the
60 tradition and that the blogger’s own family tradition does not belong to the liver
casserole region.
She then moves on to describe a novelty from the previous year, the sweet potato
casserole. She does not specify whether this novelty is to remain on the menu but I
get the impression that is the case.
Finally, she describes a casserole dish familiar to her from her childhood but
apparently no longer a part of her Christmas menu, namely the macaroni casserole.
She further defines it as a meatless dish to separate it from a common everyday dish
in Finland, a macaroni casserole with minced meat.
The liver casserole could form an exception, but my assumption is that when other
bloggers use general references to casseroles the last three types of casseroles are not
included in the menu. I also assume that the first three casseroles, rutabaga, carrot
and potato are widely accepted as traditional Christmas dishes, perhaps even
primarily or exclusively such. The latter three, however, are more likely to be
considered as novelties to the tradition(the sweet potato casserole), everyday dishes
(especially the liver but possibly also the macaroni casserole) or as related to other
festive meals especially in certain regions (the meatless macaroni casserole).
Whether an international reader of a typical data blog can grasp the idea of a
casserole in general or that they belong to the traditional menu remains uncertain; for
the Finnish writers these dishes are familiar but internationally speaking that may not
be the case. Especially the most general of the terms, Christmas dishes, is likely to
cover at least one but probably three casseroles in the mind of the writer but easily
translates as covering the dishes familiar to the reader from his or her native food
culture.
The Christmas tradition requires fish to be served at the Christmas meal. There is,
however, room for personal, family level and regional variation. The status of a big
fish, most likely salmon, when served whole can approach that of ham but bloggers
no not report replacing ham with fish. The data suggests that herring and salmon are
common elements on the menu but on the other for some bloggers the fish species
used in the dish seems irrelevant or taken for granted and they simply define the
61 preparation method. Lutefisk seems to be accepted as a Christmas dish but no
blogger explicitly reported serving it.
Blogger 9 refers to four fish dishes:
Blog 9:
Then there’s fish. Glazier’s herring (basically herring and pieces of
onion and carrot in vinegar) is what we have sometimes. Another
traditional one is rawpickled salmon *shivers*.
One of the weird Christmas “treats”, especially in the Swedish speaking
areas of Finland, is Lipeäkala – Lutefisk/lyefish. We don’t use it in my
family (thank You, God, for that!)
Sometimes rosolli contains also herring and/or garlic but to me that’s a
horrifying idea so I’m glad our tradition is very basic.
The citations above suggest that the blogger is not particularly fond of the traditional
fish dishes and she also defines them as representing not her own family’s but
regional or general traditions. The fish dishes she refers to all belong more or less to
the category of dishes that require the so called acquired taste. Therefore, if the
blogger has not been used to trying these dishes in her childhood, the dislike is of
little surprise. Also blogger 5 mentions the rawpickled fish, but only in Finnish.
Blogger 10 is somewhat of an opposite of the previously cited blogger; she is sailing
on the other side of the world and incapable of following the Finnish tradition. Fish
dishes are for her the cornerstone of the Christmas menu and she tries to prepare
them as traditionally as she can:
Blogger 10: For Christmas, we need to prepare some fish. I think we try to catch
some small prey and try to spice it up according to our family recipies
for herring. Local fresh fish can be good in akvavit or cream sauce.
Unfortunately, I left my herring recipes home but maybe I remember
the key points.
We do not try to put up a Finnish Christmas here but Christmas without
a few types of salmon and herring could be difficult.
62 The blogger is ready to accept to the Christmas table new species of fish and she is
also willing to improvise in the preparation process. However, the text suggests that
there is a quite clear idea to the writer as to what the proper Christmas fish dishes are
like, in other words the family recipes represent the most proper and most
Christmassy kind of fish dishes to the blogger.
In the following extract the reference to “the head” related to an Italian guest whose
contribution to the menu is a pig’s head that is added to the otherwise Finnish style
buffet.
Blog 3:
So the head became a part of the Christmas dinner menu with
traditional Finnish ham, salmon, potatoes and some cheese.
For this blogger the ham is a central element but not as solely the centre as with
most; the description of the salmon is symmetrical to that of the ham and this could
suggest that the ham and the salmon share the role of the as the centre. In the Finnish
section she describes the three elements, the pig’s head, the ham and the salmon, in a
rather symmetrical manner:
Blog 3:
Sianpää päätyi siis joulupöytään kinkun seuraksi. Kinkku ostettiin jo
ajoissa ennen joulua, Mirjalta sekin. Myös joululohi hankittiin
tunnetulta lohenkasvattajalta.
The pig’s head is represented as an accompaniment to the ham. The acquiring of ham
and salmon, the two elements provided by the hosts, is described with an emphasis
on knowing where the ingredient comes from. The supplier of the ham is referenced
by the first name indicating familiarity and the supplier of the salmon as a wellknown producer of salmon. The treatment of the pig’s head probably shows more
politeness to the guest who brings it than the value given to it as a dish.
Traditionally, fresh vegetables are not a part of the Christmas meal. Due to the
timing in the middle of the winter that would have been difficult of impossible in the
old times and traditionally there has also been a tendency to consider prepared and
often warm dishes more festive than uncooked ingredients. The traditional way to
include vegetables in the Christmas meal has been, in addition to the casseroles, the
rosolli salad. Below is the description of the dish by blogger 9.
63 Blog 9:
Rosolli is one of our two salads. It’s made out of cubed, cooked carrots
and beetroot, added with pieces of pickled cucumber. Rosolli is served
with a dressing made of either whipped cream with vinegar or sour
cream with vinegar and black pepper. Sometimes the dressing is
coloured pink with the beetroot juice. Sometimes rosolli contains also
herring and/or garlic but to me that’s a horrifying idea so I’m glad our
tradition is very basic.
In addition to rosolli, another salad is also mentioned:
Blog 9:
The other salad is my favourite. I’m not really sure if it’s really a
traditional Christmas dish, but we’ve had it every year as long as I can
remember. We call it italiansalaatti (Italian salad) and it’s made of peas,
carrots and apples. The small cubes are mixed into the dressing that’s
made of mayonnaise, whipped cream and vinegar. Yummy, yummy,
yummy!
The blogger describes the ingredients in detail but does not comment the preparation
process much, only that the ingredients are diced. She shows hesitation in the
labelling of the dish as a Christmas dish.
Blogs 4, 7 and 10 represent a non-Finnish menu and blog 12 a strongly modified
version. Blogger 4 enjoys the Christmas meal in a British restaurant and thus her
meal belongs to the “Roast turkey and all the trimmings” category. As the centres
and the side dishes the blogger lists the following.
Blog 4 :
turkey, ham, sausages wrapped in bacon, roasted potatoes and parsnips,
brussels sprouts, turkey stuffing and gravy
The most obvious difference, compared to the traditional Finnish Christmas meal, is
the central role of the turkey. The ham, potatoes and gravy represent familiar
elements for a Finnish eater even though roasting is not the typical cooking method
for potatoes and the British gravy may be slightly different from the typical sauce
prepared for the ham in Finland. The blogger seems satisfied with the meal and she
does not seem to miss the traditional Finnish menu. She even recommends that kind
of a Christmas meal to her readers.
64 Blog 4:
During the Christmas season you should also try famous english
christmas meal, roast turkey dinner…. Ours was served by rustic
Bolney Stage where service was excellent.
The Christmas meal enjoyed by the blogger 7 is not a traditional Christmas meal in
any culture. In fact the blogger enjoys during the Christmas two meals that could be
regarded as the main meals of the day. It seems that for the blogger the meal served
at lunch time represent the Christmas meal whereas the other meal, a dinner at a
restaurant, seems to represent more an ordinary eating out food event.
For this blogger the deviation from the tradition is not voluntary but a result caused
by circumstances:
Blog 7:
We tried to make Christmas as it is at home in Finland
Being a young, single expat in China she cannot follow the routines she is used to;
the people, the setting and the raw materials are all different from what she is used
to. She names two Christmas dishes she is unable to prepare: “no ham, no rosolli”.
Instead, she and her friends prepare the following menu:
Blog 7:
Well what we did, we cooked chicken/potato/macaroni/vegetable salad,
eggs with mayonnaise, then we had one chocolate box from Finland
and then Christmas cookies. That was our lunch
Even though the blogger writes, as cited above, that she attempts to follow the
routine in what ways she can, the blogger’s solution differs in practically all aspect
from the Finnish Christmas tradition, Firstly, it is not a buffet at all. Secondly, the
centre is salad and apparently cold. And thirdly, the name ingredient of the salad is
chicken which traditionally has no place in the Finnish Christmas menu.
4.2.3
The structure of the Christmas meal – preparation and serving
The data suggests that the bloggers take the traditional Finnish serving style of the
Christmas meal as granted; typically they do not explicate that the Finnish tradition
represents the buffet style. Blogger 3 refers to the meal as “The dinner buffet” and
blogger 9 uses also a term “Christmas table” which could be interpreted as a
translation of the Finnish term “joulupöytä” which refers to the Christmas buffet.
65 Photos included in the blogs and descriptions of the menu all imply that if the
Christmas meal is seen as a “typical”, “traditional”, “normal” kind of the Christmas
meal the buffet style is the only possibility. There are no references to a three course,
in other words a starter, main dish and dessert style, Christmas meal in the blogs that
describe a meal that the blogger considers a typical Finnish Christmas meal.
The blogs suggest that ham is the most important element on the menu for Finnish
Christmas makers. It is the centre and all other dishes served simultaneously can be
seen as staples, trimmings or condiments of the meal. For example for blogger 12
ham is the only traditional salty element accepted on the menu whereas for blogger 7
ham and rosolli are the two elements she explicitly misses from the Christmas table
The central role of the dish is emphasized by the fact that ham is the dish that
encourages most detailed comments on how it should be prepared and served.
Blog 9:
What my family has on the table is of course the ham. A big, salted ham
that’s baked in the oven for hours and hours. When it has cooled it’s
coated with mustard and breadcrumbs and eaten cold, sliced during the
Christmas and so.
The preparation and serving method provided in the previous citation is in
concordance with the typical description to be found in the blogs: ham is preferably
big and home baked and there should be enough for several meals. The meat must be
prepared as one large piece and sliced cooked.
Blogger 5 documents the preparation process very carefully; there are also photos of
the process.
Blog 5:
We did stop by at the grocery store to pick up the ham
Just popped ham into the oven for overnight roasting.
Now the ham is done ... we just got it out from the oven. It looked and
tasted great!
For this particular blogger the ham seems to be the centre of the entire Christmas for
at least the preparation time. He measures time in terms preparing the ham; there is
the day when the meat is to be chosen and brought home and then each step of the
preparation follows and marks the approach of the holiday. Once the ham is ready
66 and the maestro has approved it, the Christmas is practically there and the celebration
may begin:
Blog 5
Next we will go to sauna and prepare ourselves for Christmas eve.
The most important condiment for ham is mustard:
Blog 2:
Like every Finnish people know, when you eat Christmas Ham, you
have to have mustard.
Apart from the mustard being associated with the ham, the bloggers are not very
specific on how the ham should be combined with other dishes. The core message is
that ham on top of the hierarchy and other dishes accompany it. For example blogger
starts her description of the menu with ham and introduces other dishes in the
following way:
Blog 9:
Besides ham, there are…
And then follows a description on casseroles, fish dishes, and salads.
Ham also seems to be the most central symbol for abundance, on the one hand in the
sense of eating it too much and on the other hand in the sense of there being too
much it:
Blog 5:
Tonight we are going to drop the ham to the oven for an overnight roast
and then tomorrow we start eating more than we should.
Blog 9:
It’s about a week of eating ham and other Christmas foods. The good
thing is there’s no cooking. The bad thing is that after several days of
eating the same food you get really tired of it…
Blog 2:
Kalle and Emelie had found couple weeks earlier this store in Montreal,
that sells everything from Scandinavia and they had ordered us
Christmas Ham (Joulukinkku).
Blogger 9 comments on the serving alternatives of the rosolli:
Blog 9:
Rosolli is served with a dressing made of either whipped cream with
vinegar or sour cream with vinegar and black pepper. Sometimes the
67 dressing is coloured pink with the beetroot juice. Sometimes rosolli
contains also herring and/or garlic
The ham and the rosolli seem to be the only dishes the bloggers describe in terms of
serving. It would be interesting to interview international readers and ask them to
specify how they imagine the dishes are served and combined during the meal. It
remains, in my opinion, uncertain also for a reader with knowledge on the Finnish
tradition what rules if any followed in combining the dishes in different families.
4.2.4
The social organization of the Christmas meal - the location and
company
In this section, the analysis focuses on where and with whom the Christmas meal is
eaten. An analysis of the social organization of a meal typically attempts to answer
the questions where and with whom. This analysis forms no exception but this time
the two dimensions are combined. This is primarily to avoid redundancy; the data
suggests that the location influences the combination of participants of the Christmas
meals so heavily that discussion on participants with no accompanying information
on the location would fail to capture the social implications.
The location of a meal event can be determined at two levels. On the one hand, there
is the immediate level, the actual place where the eating takes place. For example the
blogger’s own kitchen, a hamburger place or a fine restaurant. On the other hand,
there is the general level which refers to the environment in which the blogger
spends the Christmas time. For the general level, the following categories of place
are used: Finland vs. abroad, bloggers home vs. somewhere else, and multiple places.
The nature of the place in terms of private vs. public is also discussed to some extent.
The immediate level is relevant for some blogs but not all.
In this section the blogs are grouped and discussed in the following order, based on
the location. Firstly, the analysis focuses on the bloggers who spend the Christmas in
Finland. Secondly, the analysis moves on to blogs in which the location is outside
Finland. Within these main groups, the blogs are further divided according to the
place of the meals and preparations: home, outside home and multiple places.
68 As far as the participants are concerned, the analysis involves two aspects, namely a)
the circle involved and b) number of generations present. The categories for the
circle involved are the following: alone, nuclear family, extended family and friends.
As far as the country level of the place of the celebration is concerned, only one
blogger reports having travelled from one country to another for Christmas. Yet
another travels between homes prior to Christmas but does not specify whether she
travels in order to be in Finland for Christmas and she also leaves the location of
Christmas celebration unspecified. Others spend the holidays in the country they
reside, with one blogger being a special case as she is on a long term sailing trip and
spends the Christmas on the boat.
The data suggests that private homes are the most typical places for the Christmas
meal. The data further suggests that Christmas meals typically involve more
participants than those who actually share the home, for example grandparents or
adult children with their partners and children. In other words the most typical
environment for the Christmas meal in the Finnish context is a private home but not
necessarily diner’s own.
6 bloggers specify their own home as the place where they enjoy the Christmas meal,
namely bloggers 3, 5, 7, 10, 11 and 12. For one blogger, blogger 10, a sailing ship
functions as their home. Blogger 11 has two homes, one in Italy and one in Finland,
and she does not specify in which the family spends the holiday.
Further 3 bloggers, namely bloggers 6, 8 and 13 have the meal at their relatives’
homes. All define the place in terms of a female family member; grandmother,
mother-in-law and mother respectively. The natures of the visits are apparently
slightly different: blogger 6 only visits her grandmother for a short time for the meal.
Blogger 8 has also been invited explicitly to the Christmas meal but the visit covers
the entire day and not just a meal time. Blogger 13, on the contrary, stays overnight
and enjoys several meals during her stay. She also visits her sister from her mother’s
place to have coffee and then returns to her mother’s place for yet another eating
event.
69 Blogger 8 probably serves at least one Christmas meal at her own house in addition
to the meal she describes in her posting. The described meal takes place at her
mother-in-law’s place on the 27th.
Blog 8:
Then we started towards my mother in law's place. She and my
husbands brother were waiting for us to come and eat with them.
Blogger 13 commutes a lot during the holiday and there are several places where she
eats but for the blogger the primary Christmas meal is the one served by her mother.
The location and company pattern of the blogger’s meals is the following: the meal
at the mother’s, coffee at the sister’s and a snack type food event in the evening
Blog 13:
The Christmas Eve was almost like the other eves what they usually are
at my mother's.
…
3:00pm My sister and her children came for a Christmas meal.
about 5:00pm we moved to my sister to Littoinen and drank coffee
there.
…
about 9:00pm me, my partner and my mother left from my sister and at
my mother's we ate a little bit and drank mulled wine
Blogger 2 does not specify the place but it is presumably either his home or home of
another member in the group of four adults. These four acquire foodstuff together
and share preparation duties but the blogger does not describe the environment of the
meal or other celebration. It could also be that all four share one apartment and hence
there only is one home where to dine.
Blogger 9 refers in the posting to several Christmases dating from her childhood to
present time. She focuses on aspects other than place but the text suggests that a
typical Christmas meal for the blogger is enjoyed at a private home, either the home
where she lives or at a relative’s place. The following examples focus on the way the
blogger connects the meals and dishes to the family members.
70 Blog 9:
When I was a kid my father’s mom used to make a macaroni casserole
with sugar but no meat. It was always a part of the Christmas dinner –
so maybe that’s a tradition in Middle Finland, I really don’t know.
Mr Right’s cousin always has Karelian meat stew … on their Christmas
table but we never do.
whan I was a kid my mom used to make a sort of rice pudding. And her
mom always made us red and yellow jelly
My interpretation is that the first example above refers to a meal served at the
blogger’s paternal grandmother’s place in the Central Finland even though
grandmother may have brought dishes with her to the blogger’s childhood home as
well. The second example suggests that the blogger has sometime enjoyed the
Christmas meal in the home of her husband’s cousin. Finally, the third example
refers to the Christmases spent at the own home. The comment on the grandmother
could refer to a situation where the grandmother participates in cooking in the
blogger’s home or where the blogger visits the grandmother.
As far as the location type is concerned, all the examples represent Christmas meals
enjoyed at a private home, either the actual home or a home of a relative/in-law.
Blogger 1 has the meal at a rented cottage. In terms of privacy the cottage is like an
ordinary private home.
Blog 1:
We rented a cottage and ordered a ready made Christmas meal
Only one blogger eats the meal in a truly public place; blogger 4 is travelling and
enjoys the Christmas meal at a restaurant with her boyfriend.
As far as the place within home is concerned, the bloggers do not specify where in
the house the Christmas meal is eaten area and whether the place differs from the
usual eating place. Neither do they specify whether there are special arrangements
involved for example to make room for all participants in cases where the company
includes more people than those who regularly live in the house. The background
theory does not provide tools for the analysis of these findings but in my opinion this
could be interpreted as a sign of the repetitive nature of Christmas routines: whatever
the place is and whatever arrangements are required to fit in all participants, the
71 system is the same every year and therefore need not be mentally solved. Another
possible explanation is that there is no need to specify the place because the expected
reader knows the house and where the family dines. The omission of this information
could, however, also reflect an aspect that is deeper related to the Finnish
organization of the meal: perhaps the modern Finnish households, or at least the
households of the bloggers, lack a hierarchy of places in terms of festiveness. Thus
the Christmas meal is enjoyed in the sole place used for eating in a certain house or
in the only place that is big enough for everyone to be seated regardless of the nature
of that room, be it the kitchen, a separate dining area or room, living room or some
space in the house. This finding would suggest a change in tradition; Finnish
language separates rooms according to festiveness and there is a term sali which
refers to a dining room that is used to dine guests and where . The term is also a little
archaic.
The bloggers describe the list of participants in various ways. At a collective level
some bloggers use simply first person plural while others may combine different
terms that refer to groups of people. At an individual level some bloggers refer to
participants by their first names while another technique to list persons is to give the
kinship titles or other terms that define the role of that individual either to the blogger
or in the specific context in question. Typically the bloggers combine the techniques.
Blog 1:
My parents, brother, and our family
This Christmas we celebrate with my husband's extended family.
Blogger 2 refers to three people with first names. One of these shares a flat with the
blogger and possibly is his girlfriend or wife and the other two could be a couple or
single friends. It thus seems that the group consists of four adults who are either all
friends to each other or two couples or one couple and two single friends.
Blog 3:
My sister Maria, my brother Sergio and Alberto’s cousin Roberto with
his kids arrived to stay as our guests over the Christmas.
Bloggers 4 and 5 have the meal with their partners. For blogger 4, the immediate
company consists of the blogger and her boyfriend but as the meal takes place at a
restaurant there are presumably present also a lot of other people. Blogger 5 enjoys
72 the meal with his wife at home. Blogger 12 may fall into the same couple only
category but her child may be present as well.
Blogger 6 enjoys the meal with the extended family. She lists all participants in a
careful way:
Blog 6:
present at the Christmas dinner were myself, Janne and Ebba, both my
siblings, my father, my aunt Kirsi and grandma of course
The “of course” that follows grandma is likely to refer to the location; the meal is
enjoyed at the grandmother’s home. This company includes members of four
generations.
Blog 7:
Piia, Tytti, Piia's friend Meri and I
The blogger does not specify her relationship to the females named Piia and Tytti but
they are probably flatmates; the blogger describes the participation and roles
collectively and there are no roles of a hostess or a guest (other than that of Piia’s
friend) assigned to anyone.
Blog 8:
Then we started towards my mother in law's place. She and my
husbands brother were waiting for us to come and eat with them.
Blogger 9 describes Christmas meals in different environments and her focus is more
on the location than on individual participants.
Blogger 10 enjoys the meal with the nuclear family and a guest from fellow sailor
they have met at the harbor.
Blogger 11 does not specify the company and the description leaves room for
different interpretations. At least the blogger and her son seem to be at the place but
blogger’s husband and relatives may or may not be present. The blogger’s family has
houses both in Finland and in Italy and shortly before Christmas the blogger and the
son travel from Italy to Finland. The blogger then provides description on the state of
the preparations but there is no mention of further travelling or whether the mother
and son team join relatives for the meal.
Blogger 13 travels during the Christmas and therefore there are different people
present at different meals. It seems that the main Christmas meal is the one served at
73 her mother’s and at her sister’s. The location and company pattern of the blogger’s
meals is reflected in the following citation from the blog:
Blog 13:
The Christmas Eve was almost like the other eves what they usually are
at my mother's.
…
about 10:00am the porridge was ready and we ate the "second
breakfast" :D
…
3:00pm My sister and her children came for a Christmas meal.
about 5:00pm we moved to my sister to Littoinen and drank coffee
there.
…
about 9:00pm me, my partner and my mother left from my sister and at
my mother's we ate a little bit and drank mulled wine
The core group for the blogger consists of her mother and partner who are present at
all three, four or five (the number depends on whether the breakfast time eating is
counted as one or two events and whether the coffee drinking event is seen as an
independent event or a dessert phase of the Christmas meal) eating events. The
Christmas meal involves more participants; the blogger’s sister and her children join
the blogger’s core team at the mother’s house. Once the meal is finished, the entire
company moves to the blogger’s sister’s house. There another food event, coffee
drinking, takes place. This event can be regarded as a dessert phase of the Christmas
meal as well, especially since the participants are the same. Later in the evening, the
core group returns to the blogger’s mother’s house where a less structured food event
takes place.
The data suggests that the bloggers are aware of a “complete” list of participants of a
Christmas meal and that the lists vary according to whose point of view is
emphasized. The texts describe who participates but also who is missing and who
would like to have the blogger with them.
In the following citations the bloggers specify who is missing and provide a practical
explanation:
74 Blog 3:
Roberto’s wife is running a popular catering business in Naples and as
the Christmas is a high profit season for her, she couldn’t follow her
husband and kids this year either.
Blog 6:
My mom was at work so present at the Christmas dinner were
In the examples above the omission of the mentioned individual does not seem to
affect their Christmas feeling. In the former case the missing person is not that close
to the protagonist at least in kinship terms and the protagonist also has the house full
with other people. In the latter case the missing person is close to the blogger but
they have shared the porridge meal earlier that day.
For blogger 7 the real situation features deviation from her ideal or expected in two
ways. On the one hand, one member of her usual team is missing due to meeting her
mother. On the other hand, the entire situation, the fact she is as the only member of
her childhood family abroad, forces the blogger to celebrate without the people she is
used to having around at Christmas times.
Blog 7:
Then was Christmas which we celebrated just us four (Piia, Tytti, Piia's
friend Meri and I). Mari unfortunately was in Shanghai with her mom
and sister who came to China just before Christmas Eve. We tried to
make Christmas as it is at home in Finland, but it was hard; no snow, no
Christmas decorations, no Christmas tree, no presents, no ham, no
rosolli (what ever it is in English), no mom, no family, no Christmas tv
programs, no nothing!
The omission of a friend does not seem to bother the blogger but not being with her
family, on the contrary, does.
Blogger 8 comments missing persons only in the Finnish section. The original is
written in dialectical Finnish. Thus the style translates poorly but the basic meaning
is provided in English below after the original:
Blog 8:
Moksut jäivä kotti, tais tulla valvottuu pitkäl yähö, ku lomal kerta ova.
The kids stayed home. It seems like they, having a break from the
school, stayed up late last night.
75 The children did not join their parents on a day trip to the paternal grandmother. The
blogger also explains that the omission is due to children’s sleeping rhytm; for the
children a school break is a time they are apparently allowed to stay awake later than
usual.
Blogger 12 spends the Christmas home and there are no elder generations present.
She does not report missing anyone’s company during Christmas but is aware that
her choice may not reflect the wishes of some other people. Below is the original in
Finnish and my free translation below it.
Blog 12:
Ja kyllä, olen hyvin tyytyväinen, että pidin pääni emmekä lähteneet
viettämään perinteistä joulua sukulaisteni pariin.
And yes, I am very pleased with my sticking to my plan and not going
at my relatives’ to spend a traditional Christmas with them
The text suggests that there has been persuasion from the relatives and that the
blogger would have been an expected guest.
4.2.5
The social organization of the Christmas meal - who prepares
In this section, the analysis focuses on who prepares the Christmas meal.
Blogger 11 describes the preparations in a way that reveals to the reader that the
Christmas dishes are home made. She does not, however, specify how the work is
shared between the family members:
Blog 11:
the ham needs to be picked up today. …the last casseroles are on their
way into the oven like the gingerbread.
Three bloggers enjoy meals that have been commercially produced but for one of the
bloggers the restaurant meal does not represent the Christmas meal.
76 Blogger 1 is one of the bloggers who have outsourced the preparation. She spends
the holiday at a rented cottage with her family, so the meal is both commercial and
private:
Blog 1:
We rented a cottage and ordered a ready made Christmas meal which
turned out to be a wonderful way to celebrate Christmas. We had time
to enjoy each others' company and relax since no one had to stress
about cooking and cleaning.
According to the blog the family celebrates in a very traditional way except for the
outsourcing process. The text emphasizes the importance of the social aspect for the
blogger: for her the shared time and experience are more important than being in
control of the preparation process. She feels no urge to justify the decision and
openly expresses relief from the work load and responsibilities related to the
preparation of the meal.
Blogger 4 is the only blogger who reported travelling abroad in order to celebrate the
Christmas. Her meal is a restaurant buffet and the menu follows the British tradition.
4.3
The analysis of the emergence of tradition in the blogs
In this section, the analysis focuses on of the Christmas food tradition, namely on the
awareness and interpretation of the tradition among the bloggers as well as how the
Christmas time meals described in the blogs reflect the tradition. The analysis further
describes how the blogger’s react to omissions and alterations to the tradition as well
as how the tradition and the ideal relate to each other.
As far as the awareness of the tradition is concerned, in all the blogs the bloggers
show awareness of the Finnish Christmas food tradition which includes for example
ham, casseroles, certain fish dishes and rosolli. There is, however, also variation in
the relation to the tradition.
77 One aspect that reflects variety is how the blogger ties the tradition to geography and
families. Blogger 9 shows awareness of possible regional heterogeneity in the
tradition. She begins her description with a disclaimer of some sort:
Blog 9:
Things written here are not the absolute truth or scientific facts but the
way I personally see life in this beautiful country and how I’ve grown
to know them. Many things vary a lot between different areas, too. My
life experience is limited to South and Central Finland.
She also carefully specifies her personal relationship to each aspect of the tradition.
In other words, she explicates whether an aspect of the tradition belongs to her own
menu or to her family’s habits or whether she just describes it because it is a part of
the general tradition but has not had a part in her Christmases. She further explicates
that the tradition covers also dishes that she personally does not find pleasant.
In the following citations the blogger draws connections between certain regions and
Christmas related dishes in the following way:
Blog 9:
One of the weird Christmas “treats”, especially in the Swedish speaking
areas of Finland, is Lipeäkala – Lutefisk/lyefish. We don’t use it in my
family (thank You, God, for that!)
When I was a kid my father’s mom used to make a macaroni casserole
with sugar but no meat. It was always a part of the Christmas dinner –
so maybe that’s a tradition in Middle Finland, I really don’t know.
With the first comment, she apparently connects Christmas traditions also to
language communities. This could, however, be a purely geographical observation
despite the language comment; the Swedish speaking areas in Finland cover the
archipelago and some parts of the Western and Southern coasts and thus the
closeness to the sea could explain possible differences especially in the habits related
to fish and fish dishes. Whatever the actual focus of the remark, be it linguistic or
geographical, she separates her own tradition from that of the Swedish speaking
areas.
78 The latter comment shows that on the one hand the blogger regards traditions as
regional and on the other hand as a family level phenomenon. She knows that the
grandmother from her father’s side did consider macaroni casserole a Christmas dish
but she is not certain whether that reflected more that particular house’s habits or a
habit common in the area, namely “Middle Finland” as she chooses to call the area
she also refers to as “Central Finland” in the disclaimer cited above. The blogger is
open about what she does not know and her comment also signals that the macaroni
casserole tradition is a thing of the past for her. Food studies typically emphasize the
maternal lines in explanations of how traditions are passed forward. Perhaps this is a
reversed example of the importance of the maternal lines and omission of the
macaroni dish and unawareness of its regional status is related to the fact that they
represent blogger’s father’s food heritage.
Further, the same blogger describes another element of the tradition that is not
included in the menu of the blogger and which also has a paternal connection to the
family:
Blog 9:
Mr Right’s cousin always has Karelian meat stew (pieces of pork and
beef, sometimes with onion and carrots, cooked in a big pot in the oven)
on their Christmas table but we never do.
Whether there used to be Karelian meat stew on the Christmas menu in the
husband’s childhood remains uncertain but the blogger apparently has no personal
Christmassy association with the dish and does not include it in her menu.
The definition of whether a dish is a Christmas dish may be unclear, as in the
following example, further from the same blog:
Blog 9:
The other salad is my favourite. I’m not really sure if it’s really a
traditional Christmas dish, but we’ve had it every year as long as I can
remember. We call it italiansalaatti (Italian salad)
Even though the dish has belonged to all the Christmases the blogger remembers, she
is uncertain as whether to classify it as a traditional Christmas dish. And she is
probably right in doubting the role of that dish in the most typical Christmas meal
menu; that dish is not mentioned by other bloggers and literature suggests that the
salad dish of the Christmas time is traditionally the so called rosolli.
79 The method used for introducing the dishes illuminates the emphasis given for
tradition in defining the Christmas dishes: the blogger lists with no hesitation as
Christmas dishes some dishes she has never included into her Christmas menu and
which she may have never seen being served in her childhood home. At the same
time, she is not certain whether to label the Italian salad as a Christmas dish even
though that dish has been served every Christmas she remembers.
As far as the faithfulness to the Christmas traditions are concerned, it seems that the
greater the distance between Finland and/or the socially and emotionally closest
people, the more willingly novelties are accepted; newly acquired friends and
colleagues are accepted as Christmas company, Swedish or Scandinavian goods can
be regarded as genuine parts of the Finnish tradition and significant menu
modification is allowed. These modifications and novelties are discussed below.
Blogger 2 collects most items for the Christmas from local shops abroad and his
adaptation method is to widen the Finnish tradition into Scandinavian one.
Blog 2:
Scandinavian food from IKEA. God bless Sweden.
K and E had found couple weeks earlier this store in Montreal, that
sells everything from Scandinavia and they had ordered us Christmas
Ham (Joulukinkku). I have to warn you, that after being near four
months away from your home country, this kind of store might get you
nuts. Before we got there, i though i got almost everything i need from
IKEA, but boy was i wrong…
We are now pretty much ready for the Scandinavian Christmas dinner
on Wednesday.
The blogger’s relationship to the Scandinavian dimension seems to vary depending
on the situation. He is pleased with IKEA providing Scandinavian foodstuff and he
introduces the newly found shop as having a Scandinavian selection. A more detailed
description on the shop, however, shows that within the selection he prefers Finnish
items when available:
80 Blog 2:
So, what did they have in the store, well of course Finnish mustard,
Turun sinappia. After discovering the mustard, i found Finnish coffee!
They had almost everything you could wish to have from back home.
When i got inside the store, first thing i saw was salmiak candy
(salmiakkia) on my left side, and after surviving the first shock, i
noticed that they had all the Finnish candy you can wish.
I mostly bought Finnish candy from the store, and of course i took
Turun sinappia (mustard). Jamie bought hapankorppua. Now that i
found the place, there isn’t anymore need for people to send me Finnish
candy’s!
Being overseas, he also accepts onto his Christmas shopping list items primarily
because they represent Finnish or Scandinavian food culture rather than being
considered especially Christmassy as can be seen in the citation below:
Blog 2:
On the photo on right, you can see what i got from IKEA. There is
some blueberry soup (mustikkakeittoa), crisp bread (näkkileipää),
Swedish cider Kopparberg (siideriä), Kalles Caviar (Kallen
mätitahnaa), glogg (glögiä), cow berry jelly (puolukkahilloa), Swedish
meatballs (jauhelihapullia) and rösti. We eat the same stuff in Finland,
so it was nice to find them in IKEA.
All of the items mentioned are familiar in Finland, yet the only one with Christmassy
association is glogg. Even though the rest of the items do not belong to the core
elements of the Christmas tradition suggested by media, my personal interpretation
of the Christmas menu would allow meatballs, cowberry jelly and Kalles Caviar (as a
condiment to eggs, perhaps) as parts of a Christmas menu, or rather as elements of
the Scandinavian buffet in general. Further, in order to avoid overtly interpreting the
source text, it should be borne in mind that the blogger does not specify whether he
bought all items for the Christmas meal. Thus at least some of the elements may be
81 intended to be enjoyed during the Christmas holidays but not necessarily at the main
meal.
Blogger 10, a family sailing around the world and during the Christmas in New
Zealand, takes distance from the Finnish food tradition but lists some fish dishes as
crucial for the Christmassy feeling:
Blog 10:
We do not try to put up a Finnish Christmas here but Christmas without
a few types of salmon and herring could be difficult.
The family of the blog 10 post to the blog together and the language choices vary. In
English they provide little comments on the company but in Finnish they describe
how a fellow sailor, a Swede they have met at the pier, joins them for the meal and
contributes to the menu at least in terms of gingerbreads.
In the previous examples the fact that the bloggers spend the Christmas abroad
causes deviation from the tradition. The following sample, however, is a possible
example of the Finnish tradition followed abroad. Blogger 11 does not describe the
actual Christmas time. Instead, her posting focuses on the phase the preparations are
at the point of writing:
Blog 11:
We are still in the middle of Christmas preparations, the house needs
some more decorations and the ham needs to be picked up today.
However, the Christmas tree is already in the balcony waiting for
Christmas Eve morning and the last casseroles are on their way into the
oven like the gingerbread. Christmas is soon here!
This blogger is an expat but according to the description the family follows the
Finnish tradition in a faithful manner and all the Christmassy elements referred to in
the text are familiar from the Finnish context: the ham, the casseroles and the
gingerbread. In fact, nothing in the text suggests that the place is outside Finland.
Whether the place is Finland or not cannot be determined based on the text; the
family has houses both in Italy and in Finland and the text does not specify which
house is the place for celebration.
82 Ham being the typical centre of the traditional Finnish Christmas meal, the Finnish
tradition is obviously different from those with turkey as the centre. Typically, the
bloggers do not emphasize the omission of the turkey. This is expectable in terms of
Finnish food culture but may evoke questions in foreign readers. Below is an
example from blog 9 where a reader of the blog shows in his/her comment surprise
because there is no mention of turkey.
Blog 9:
(a reader’s comment)
What a lovely idea the red ribbon of words is on the Christmas Tree.
But – no goose or turkey??
(the blogger’s response)
these days turkeys have found their way into some (very few) Finnish
Christmas tables but it isn’t a tradition. In my family we’ve never had
turkey.
For the reader either goose or turkey seems to represent the default Christmas meat.
The blogger describes the position of turkey in Finland in general as well as in her
own family. In her answer to the reader she ignores the goose alternative completely.
Ham is the default meat in Finland but turkey has also become a possible meat for
the Christmas table for a minority of Finns. Goose, on the contrary, has no place in
the Finnish Christmas menu and it seems that the blogger’s answer reflects that
situation.
Blogger 12 criticizes the tradition - at least in the form her parents follow it - quite
explicitly but only in Finnish. Firstly, she states that she does not share her parent’s
idea of how Christmas should be celebrated. Below is the original followed by my
free translation.
Blog 12:
minun käsitykseni mukavasta joulusta eroaa siitä, miten joulua
vietetään vanhempieni luona.
my idea of a nice Christmas differs from the way Christmas is
celebrated at my parent’s.
83 The blogger’s definition of a “proper” way of celebrating Christmas is not directly
derived from the way she has been used as a child. She further comments food
tradition, specifically the tendency to follow the traditional menu despite personal
preferences and perhaps implicitly also the tradition of abundance. Like in the
example above, the original is in Finnish and my free translation is given below it.
Blog 12:
Perinteen vuoksi tehtävät ruuat, joista kukaan ei tykkää ja joita sen
takia heitetään joulun jälkeen pilaantuneina roskiin, eivät vaan sovi
ajatukseeni jouluherkuista.
Food prepared just for the tradition’s sake, food that nobody actually
likes and which is therefore thrown away after the Christmas when it’s
gone bad simply does not fit into my idea of Christmas delicacies
For this blogger the individual variation and following personal preferences seem
quite acceptable and natural approaches to the tradition. She seems to interpret her
parent’s tradition to be externally exposed to the parent’s; in her childhood home the
menu apparently includes dishes that belong to the traditional menu even if nobody
eats or likes them.
Also blogger 13 expresses criticism towards the tradition but her criticism focuses on
social expectations. The connection to the food tradition is therefore less direct but
nevertheless the company and the norms applied to the meals are connected.
The data suggests that changes to an old routine represent no automatic threat of
compromising the Christmassy feeling. For example for blogger 1 the described
Christmas represents major novelties in terms of both place and preparation; instead
of preparing the meal herself and serving it at home she travels with the family to
Lapland and enjoys a ready-made meal and seems very pleased with the decision as
the following quotation suggests.
Blog 1:
We rented a cottage and ordered a ready made Christmas meal which
turned out to be a wonderful way to celebrate Christmas.
The description does not suggest that the participants missed Christmassy elements
related to the home or dishes prepared in the family way.
84 Also blogger 4 seems satisfied with novelties in terms of both place and menu; she
evaluates the British pub menu as recommendable for her readers.
The following example suggests that usually the blogger makes Christmas porridge
herself and that the family enjoys it home. This year, however, the porridge meal is
served by the blogger’s parents.
Blog 6:
We were invited for Christmas porridge at my parents house, so I didn't
make any myself this year.
The blogger seems happy with that; her Christmas feeling does not seem to be
distracted by not participating in the cooking process.
It has been assumed that preparing the Christmas foods by oneself is an important
element in the Christmas food tradition but the data does not support this. On the
contrary, blogger’s seem quite satisfied with being served a meal cooked by someone
else and they also accept that dish may have been prepared according to another
recipe than the one most familiar to them. The data further challenges previous
research which proposes that the more festive the meal the more important the details
of the rules. Namely, the data suggests that the blogger’s show flexibility in many
sense.
85 5
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS
This chapter provides reflection on the present study including discussion on how the
research process was carried out and on how the analysis succeeded in answering to
the research questions and how the answers compare to previous research. Next, I
will analyze the limitations of the present study. After this, the usefulness of findings
will be discussed. Finally, potential questions for future research are introduced.
The purpose of the present study was to find out how the social organization of the
Christmas meals and the bloggers’ relation to the Finnish Christmas food tradition
are represented in English in 13 publicly accessible blogs by Finnish writers. The
Christmas meals related postings were approached from a qualitative content
analysis perspective. For the analysis, the Nordic model to the analysis of the social
structure of the meal was used.
The outline for the present study is selected so that the study can fill gaps in the
previous research in the following areas of research 1) the use of English by Finns in
blogs, 2) the use of English in describing a phenomenon that is closely related to the
Finnish culture, namely the Finnish Christmas meal tradition and 3) the application
of a model to the analysis of the social organization of a meal in analysis of festive
meals.
The material level of the concept of the Finnish Christmas food tradition was
illustrated by describing dishes that are held as Christmassy in the Finnish context.
This was done to provide the reader with a concrete idea of what is typically
understood by the traditional Finnish Christmas menu but the description also formed
a basis for the list of keywords used in the data search. In addition, previous studies
in the field of sociology of food were introduced in order to illustrate the role and
status of the Christmas related food in the Finnish cultural system of meals. This was
to make clear 1) the centrality of the Christmas food tradition within the Finnish
culture and 2) the culture-specific nature of the tradition.
Further, central approaches for the study of the meal were introduced, namely the
structuralistic approach, the Douglas’ model to the analysis of the meal and the
86 Nordic model to the analysis of the meal. These approaches were important in order
to illustrate how the sociology of food acknowledges the centrality of the Christmas
meals tradition and to show how so far little study is carried out in relation to the
social organisation of the Finnish Christmas meal.
The primary data consisted of 13 blogs that are publicly accessible and written by a
person whose language repertoire covers Finnish in addition to English. The data
selection was carried out in July and August 2011. The initial search focused on any
food or nutrition related blog postings but that proved to be too wide a scope and
needed to be narrowed. In terms of text features, the selected blogs represented freely
formatted input which allows the writers to freely select what they want to write
about and how they wish to formulate it and as such provided more suitable material
for analysis than blogs in which English is primarily used in quotations or embedded
elements and not produced by the blogger. In terms of the topic, the Christmas meal
and Christmas food tradition were suitable for my purposes because they represent
an element that is to some extent familiar to a person with a Finnish cultural
background and the familiarity of which to a person with a non-Finnish background
varies. Therefore, this particular topic was suitable to enlighten the strategies a
Finnish person uses when discussing in English on a subject that is familiar in
Finnish and may or may not be familiar to international audience. Further, from the
sociology of food perspective, the data were suitable because typically the recent
Finnish research on meals has focused on the everyday meals. Thus the data could be
used to extend the modern analysis model to festive meals.
The main dimensions of the analysis were, firstly, the analysis of the social
organization of the Christmas porridge meal and the main Christmas meal and,
secondly, the analysis of how the texts reflect and relate to the Finnish Christmas
food tradition. The meal analysis consisted of three dimensions, namely the naming
of the meal, the structure of the meal and the social organization of the meal. In the
naming of the meal section, the analysis attempted to describe the rules that are
applied to the naming of the Christmas time meals. The analysis of the structure of
the meal attempted to define what is eaten at the Christmas porridge meal and at the
Christmas meal and how the food is served. The analysis of the social organization
attempted to define where and with whom the Christmas porridge meal and the
Christmas meal are eaten and who prepares the meals.
87 The analysis of the Christmas food tradition attempted to describe the awareness and
interpretation of the tradition among the bloggers as well as how the Christmas time
meals described in the blogs reflect the tradition. The analysis further described how
the blogger’s react to omissions and alterations to the tradition.
Next, the main results of the analysis will be discussed. As far as the naming rules of
the meals are concerned, the data suggested that the bloggers’ systems of meals
includes two Christmas related meals, firstly, the Christmas porridge meal and,
secondly, the main Christmas meal. The rice porridge meal consists, according to the
blogs, of rice porridge with milk, sugar, cinnamon and/or butter as condiments and it
is enjoyed in the morning or early afternoon of the Christmas Eve. The “proper”
Christmas meal for the bloggers is a Scandinavian buffet style meal including ham as
the centre. Further, the “proper” Christmas meal is prepared and served at home and
enjoyed with family, typically involving also members of the extended family. In this
context, I use the term “proper” to indicate that the bloggers reported the above
described features as neutral characteristics of the main Christmas meal whereas
deviations from them were reported as novelties, exceptions or omissions or the
bloggers showed hesitation in defining the elements as genuinely Christmassy. The
findings related to deviation from the tradition will be discussed in detail later in this
chapter, focusing in particular on findings concerning comments on deviation from
the tradition in terms of what is eaten.
The two meals described above were the two meal types specifically associated with
the Christmas time eating, according to the blogs. In addition, it seemed that the main
Christmas meal is an obligatory element in the meal system of the bloggers.
According to the blogs, the bloggers were willing to negotiate the naming rules when
necessary: in the absence of such a “proper” Christmas meal, a different meal was
named the Christmas meal and the deviation to the “proper” meal was reported. The
data suggested flexibility in what kind of a meal may be named as the main
Christmas meal, but one restriction seemed to be applied: the Christmas porridge
meal cannot replace the Christmas meal. Furthermore, there were cases of multiple
meals being named as the Christmas meals. In those cases, the naming reflected the
social network of the blogger in the following way. If the blogger shared meals with
companies that were different in terms of who participated but symmetrical in the
sense that the party included people that were socially closest connected to the
88 blogger, the blogger named all such meals as Christmas meals. Consequently, the
location, timing, company, menu and even the number the number of the Christmas
meals may vary, but the bloggers still named at least one meal as the main Christmas
meal during the holidays.
The role of the Christmas porridge meal was, according to the bloggers, less
obligatory. The data suggested that if the porridge meal was enjoyed, the time, as
mentioned above, was the morning or early afternoon of the Christmas Eve. The data
further suggested, however, that skipping the porridge meal was perfectly acceptable.
As far as the relation between the two Christmas meals is concerned, it seems that
the rice porridge meal, even though concerned Christmassy, cannot replace the main
Christmas meal.
As far as the results relating to the structure of the meals are concerned, the data
suggested that the bloggers are aware of the structure of the traditional menu. That
menu includes ham, casseroles, rosolli salad and fish is some form, typically salmon
or herring.
The role of the internalised interpretation of what the traditional Finnish Christmas
menu includes seemed central for defining whether a particular dish is a Christmas
dish: a dish from the traditional list was seen as a Christmas dish regardless of
whether that particular dish belonged to the blogger’s personal experience of
Christmas while a dish not included in the traditional menu was either not labelled as
a Christmas dish or was done so with hesitation even though the dish had been
served at every Christmas meal since the blogger’s childhood. When reporting
novelties to the traditional menu, the bloggers showed hesitation in labelling
novelties as “proper” Christmas dishes either by explicitly pondering whether a
certain elements is truly Christmassy or by marking the element linguistically as an
addition to the core Christmas menu.
The ham is the centre of the Christmas menu, but there is also another foodstuff that
has traditionally been seen as an icon of the Finnish Christmas, namely the
gingerbread. Gingerbreads were mentioned by the bloggers but not described as an
element of the Christmas meals. This suggested that the gingerbreads are regarded as
Christmas time snacks or elements of the Christmas time coffee serving menu. Even
though the data suggested, on the one hand, that gingerbreads were related to the
89 coffee serving event and that, on the other hand, the coffee event, in turn, was by
some bloggers seen as the final part of the main Christmas meal, there data showed
no direct connection between the Christmas meal and the gingerbreads.
The bloggers showed little interest in the details of preparation as well as to the rules
related to serving/eating order of the dishes as well as combinatory rules. This
finding will be discussed in more detail below in a section focusing on how the
findings correlate to previous research.
In sum, the most important findings related to the structure of the meals were the
following. 1) The bloggers were aware of the traditional Finnish Christmas menu and
seemed to consider ham, casseroles, rosolli and fish in some form as essential
elements of the menu. 2) The definition of the traditional menu seemed to draw on
the national food culture heritage rather than on the personal experiences which was
manifested in that 3) the bloggers show hesitation in labelling novelties to the
traditional menu as Christmassy. 4) The bloggers showed little interest in the details
of preparation as well as to the rules related to serving/eating order of the dishes as
well as combinatory rules.
As far as the findings related to the social organisation of the Christmas meals are
concerned, they suggested that the porridge meal is more important as a marker of
the actual Christmas time than as a symbol reflecting social intimacy. In other words,
in the context of the porridge meal, the bloggers were not concerned with who could
participate and did not indicate they missed someone.
The bloggers’ interpretation of who participates in the traditional main Christmas
meal, on the contrary, seemed to be more fixed. The data suggested that the bloggers
regarded as expected participants in the main meal, on the one hand, eater’s partner,
children, parents and siblings and, on the other hand, symmetrically the in-laws, in
other words partner’s parents and siblings. The data also suggested that in case of
adult children, the idea of parents and adult children sharing the main Christmas
meal is more important to the parents than to the adult children. Further, according to
the bloggers, it is typical that the Christmas meal is shared by representatives of
several households, typically all members still members of extended family.
90 As stated above, the bloggers showed awareness of the family-centred Christmas
meal tradition. Yet, at the same time they showed understanding of the fact that the
tradition easily leads to conflicts of interests as well as logistic challenges in reality.
Typically, these challenges involved geographical distance or work responsibilities.
Bloggers also reported cases where they were aware of someone expecting or
wishing them to join that person for the meal, but the blogger did not share that wish.
A typical approach by the bloggers to the question of who participates in the meal
was pragmatic. Those who would have liked to share the meal with certain people
but were not able to, joined an available group and decided that it was their
Christmas meal company. Others commuted to maximise the coverage of their social
network. Some had to choose between mutually exclusive alternatives and thus
exclude someone from the meal. In case there was someone missing from the default
list, an explanation was provided by the blogger, typically with some sort of an
emotional expression included, such as indicating missing a person or frustration
towards conflicting opinions.
The findings related to the social organization of the meals in terms of when the
meals were eaten were the following. Firstly, as already stated previously, if the
porridge meal was included in the blogger’s meal system, it was eaten in the morning
or in the early afternoon of the Christmas Eve. Secondly, the main Christmas meal
was typically eaten in the evening of the Christmas Eve. However, if the meal
enjoyed at that point of time did not match the blogger’s idea of the Christmas meal,
they did not name it as such but chose another a meal eaten at another point of time
instead and named that as their Christmas meal. Further, if the blogger enjoyed meals
with different but equally close people during the Christmas time, several meals
could be referred to as the Christmas meals.
Finally, as far as the place of eating is concerned, the findings suggest that the
location is of little significance for the bloggers with respect to the Christmas meals.
The data did suggest, though, that the private home of either the blogger or a close
relative/in-law was considered the “normal” place for the Christmas meal, but
commercial locations were also quite acceptable among the bloggers. Further, the
bloggers pondered the location in terms of commuting between several places of
celebration in the following way. As the reason to commute and as the benefit, they
saw the fact that commuting between different groups of close ones makes it possible
91 to share the holiday and the meals with a maximum number of people. Yet, at the
same time, the bloggers identified as unpleasant aspects the fact commuting forces
the bloggers to be separated from some individuals close to them as well considered
the activity as not particularly Christmassy.
Previous research suggests that the Christmas meal, as a central element related to a
culturally important annual festival, has a special role in the cultural system of meals
both universally (Douglas 1975), and in Finland (Mäkelä 1999, Knuuttila 2004). The
results are in accordance with the idea of a Christmas meal belonging to the cultural
system of meals and Finns internalising the concept and rules of the Christmas food
tradition.
Previous research (Douglas 1975, Mäkelä 1990: 47-49 and 76) also suggests that in a
festive context, rules are consciously and faithfully obeyed. The data does not
support the idea of focusing on rules on all the levels of the organization of the
meals. It seems that at the menu level the rules are important; there is a clear idea of
what the “proper” menu includes and the elements that belong to the menu are seen
as automatically Christmassy, whereas the Christmassy nature of other elements
needs to be negotiated. Despite the bloggers seemed to be aware of the menu related
rules, they did not in all cases follow the rules as a result of circumstances or as
deliberate deviation from the rules. In both cases the deviation was reported and
explained.
The bloggers did not, however, comment much on how the food was to be arranged
and in which order the dishes should be eaten and how they should be combined.
This, in my opinion, can be interpreted in several ways. Firstly, the tendency among
the bloggers not to focus on the recipes and the preparation phase may reflect the
chosen genre, the people oriented blogs. Perhaps recipes and detailed discussion on
cooking represents typical content in blogs that focus more on food or cooking.
Secondly, the choice of topic could reflect the blogger’s own mental processing
related to different elements of the Finnish Christmas tradition; they do not write
about what they take for granted. For example, baking the ham requires a slightly
different process each time depending on how much the ham weighs and so on.
Therefore, the baking process requires conscious calculation and that is reflected in
the entries. Or, when the blogger operates in a foreign environment, finding
92 traditional ingredients or suitable substitutions may be challenging and that, in turn,
is possibly reflected by the blogger describing the process of acquiring the raw
materials.
Mäkelä (2002: 13) suggests that the structure of the main Christmas meal, despite the
buffet style serving, reflects the three course organization of a meal with cold fish
and meats chosen first as the first course, then ham accompanied with casseroles and
side dishes eaten as the hot dish and finally dessert. The data, however, challenged
the idea of bloggers regarding the main Christmas meal as a three course meal. On
the one hand, they did not specify the eating order of the salty dishes. Based on the
data, it cannot be concluded whether the writers combined all dishes into one plateful
or selected several combinations and whether the order and possible combinations
reflected personal taste, family level habits, general festive manners or particularly
Christmassy order of eating. On the other hand, the data further challenged the threecourse setting suggested by Mäkelä as far as the dessert is concerned. Namely, the
bloggers seemed to regard the salty dishes as the core elements of the menu and
showed either little interest or great flexibility in defining whether the traditional
menu includes dessert type dishes at all and if so, what exactly the dishes are. The
bloggers did name sweet Christmassy foods, such as star shaped prune tarts, but did
not specify the role of those in the context of the main Christmas meal. The bloggers
further mentioned some dessert type dishes that are served year round but typically
the comments suggested that those were not seen as parts of the main Christmas
meal.
The briefness of bloggers on the combinatory rules may reflect that the rules have
been internalized in a way that they are followed unconsciously. Therefore my
conclusion, based on the data, is that the salty dishes are served in a buffet manner
and that there may be combinatory rules as well as rules concerning the eating order,
but that those rules are not consciously followed. My further conclusion is that the
sweet dishes are not considered a part of the actual Christmas meal but rather a minor
meal that may or may be served soon after the main meal. That meal is not, however,
named as a distinctive Christmassy meal like the porridge meal and the main meal.
Leppänen and others (2008) suggest that the Finns use the English language
increasingly as a second language, not as a foreign language. My conclusion is that
93 the data supported the idea of Finns approaching English as a second language
resource to some extent. My assumption is that the bloggers had chosen to use
English at least partially because they wanted to reach readers who cannot speak
Finnish and who are not familiar with the Finnish (food) culture. In most blogs,
however, there was little adaptation of contents to the international readership. Even
though the blogs typically included some background information on dishes that the
bloggers probably would not have included in a text directed to an exclusively
domestic audience, the blogger did not provide much information on the culture as if
not regarding the communication truly international or not being aware of what
elements of the Christmas tradition are specifically Finnish and thus might need
further explanations to be comprehensible for a foreign reader. In general, it seems
that the amount of information given in the blogs reflects more what the writer
focuses on than what the writer expects the readers to know beforehand.
When evaluating the relevancy of the results of the present study, the following
limitations should be taken into consideration. Firstly, the analysis is based on a
relatively narrow set of data. Secondly, the collection method relied on the core
elements of the tradition and therefore the data is likely to present only certain type
of Christmas related discussion. In order to find out whether there are Christmas
meal descriptions that do not reflect the Finnish Christmas food tradition, searches
should be based on other criteria than that derived from the tradition.
Bearing the above mentioned limitations in mind, the results yielded by the analysis
are important in the following respect. Firstly, the bloggers do not show much
adaptation to the international readers; what is clear for them they do not explicate to
the readers.
The present study could be used as a starting point for further research on different
fields of study, namely 1) use of English in Finland, 2) sociology of food and 3)
genre analysis on blogs. Firstly, in relation to the use of English in Finland, it would
be interesting to find out whether the language choice reflects the expected audiences
of the blogs. Do the texts or bloggers, if they are interviewed, suggest that the
English is used in the blogs as a tool to maintain social relationships that have been
established in the off-line world, or is it a way to reach audiences beyond the existing
social network? Or is the use of English perhaps a way to exclude certain groups of
94 readers, namely those whose language repertoire does not cover English? Are there
bloggers who use English even though they expect their readers to be Finns? Further,
do those who expect the readers to have no experience of Finland provide more
information on the Finnish tradition compared to those with different reader
expectations?
In the field of sociology of food, it would be interesting to extend the analysis to all
reported Christmas time food events in Finnish blogs in order to find out whether and
how the minor food events are socially organised. It would be particularly interesting
to attempt to define the role of minor Christmas time food events in relation to social
relationships, for example whether there are patterns concerning extra-familiar
contacts, such as friends of single young adults as well as how the social organization
of meals reflects modern family structures including for example ex-partners.
Descriptions of the minor food events could also provide suitable data for the
analysis of Christmas related food as a tool of distinction, for example what types of
beverages and snacks are consumed how those relate to the Finnish Christmas food
tradition and to the European delicacy tradition. Further, relevant problems for future
research in the field of sociology of food would be how the blogs by Finns represent,
on the one hand, the dimension of everyday versus festive and, on the other hand, the
social organization of festive meals other than those related to Christmas. One
potential point of interest in further research focusing on the festive versus everyday
would be the concept of abundance which could be studied by comparing the blog
entries written during the Christmas with those written at more everyday contexts to
find out whether the entries show differences in the attitudes towards abundance and
what is considered a suitable amount of snacks and amount of food eaten at each
food event. A food sociologically directed study covering blog descriptions on any
festive meals could, depending on the research frame, focus on issues like 1) how
central a role food and food tradition have in the texts by Finnish bloggers with
respect to different festive occasions, 2) do the descriptions by Finnish bloggers
include novelties to traditional Finnish festive occasions, for example are there
descriptions on meals that relate to, from the traditional Finnish perspective, exotic
religions and if so, how the organization of the meal relates to Finnish festive food
traditions.
95 In conclusion, the present study described the social organisation of the Christmas
meals as represented by Finnish bloggers. The present study showed that the Finnish
bloggers were aware of the Christmas related food tradition and how their own way
of celebration related to the tradition. The present study also showed that the
bloggers were aware of what the “proper” Christmas menu includes and that the
elements that belong to the menu were seen as automatically Christmassy, whereas
the Christmassy nature of other elements needed to be negotiated. This indicated that
at the dish level the rules related to the Christmas meals were important for the
bloggers. On the other levels, however, the study showed that the bloggers were less
rule-conscious. In sum, the present study suggests that regardless of how precisely
the Finnish bloggers followed the Christmas food tradition, they showed awareness
of it. Furthermore, the bloggers’ meal system included the Christmas meal as an
obligatory meal: at least one Christmas time meal was considered the Christmas meal
even if it differed from the tradition drastically.
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