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Joulupukki is a Finnish Christmas figure. The name "Joulupukki" literally means "Christmas goat" or "Yule Goat" in Finnish; the word pukki comes from the Teutonic root bock, which is a cognate of the English "buck", "Puck", and means "billy-goat". An old Scandinavian custom, the figure eventually became more or less conflated with Santa Claus.
Origins and description
The Joulupukki or "Yule Buck" is originally a pagan tradition. He is connected to the ase Wōden of the norse mythology and said to wear red leather pants and a fur trimmed red leather coat. Under the Winter Solstice - going by the names of Jólnir (yule figure) and Langbarðr (long-beard) - Wōden led the Wild Hunt accompagnied by Thor driving his a flying wagon drawn by goat bucks. The Joulupukki may also be a man turned into a goat-man on Christmas Eve, as it is seen in Elsa Beskow's Peter and Lotta's Christmas. There persists today in some parts of Finland the custom of persons dressing in goat costume to perform for leftover food after Christmas. Historically, such a person was an older man, and the tradition refers to him as a nuuttipukki.
Today, Joulupukki looks and behaves mostly like his American cousin, but there are differences. Joulupukki's house and workshop are situated in the mountains of Korvatunturi, whereas his American counterpart resides somewhere by the North Pole. Another difference is that instead of sneaking in through the chimney during the late hours, Joulupukki knocks on the front door during Christmas Eve celebrations. Upon entering, he traditionally greets the household with "Onko täällä kilttejä lapsia?" ("Are there [any] well-behaved children here?")
He usually wears warm red clothes, uses a walking stick, and travels in a sleigh pulled by a number of reindeer, which cannot fly like Santa Claus's fleet. In Lapland, his mount is a pulkka rather than a sleigh. The popular holiday song "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" in its Finnish translation, Petteri Punakuono, has led to Rudolph's general acceptance in Finland as Joulupukki's lead reindeer. Joulupukki is often mentioned as having a wife, Joulumuori ("Old Lady Christmas"), but tradition says little of her.
Joulupukki and his wife live and work in Korvatunturi, in Lapland. His assistants are called tonttu, or more precisely joulutonttu (from Swedish tomte); they are not elves, but are essentially human, often dwarflike in character. In later developments, the joulutonttu also ride goats.
Their attire resembles Joulupukki's, and males also sport a white beard, but joulutonttu are often smaller in size and may be of any age and either gender. While only a rather large, aged man can convincingly dress as Joulupukki, most other people can dress as a joulutonttu, with less special attire required.
- The location of Joulupukki's workshop comes from a children's radio show called Markus-sedän lastentunti (Children's hour with Uncle Markus) hosted by Markus Rautio and broadcast by the Finnish Broadcasting Company between years 1927–1956.
- Finland's Joulupukki received over 700,000 letters from children all over the world in 2006, according to a news report by the Finnish Broadcasting Company, YLE.
- Joulupukki is a prominent character in Rare Exports, a movie based on the award winning shorts by Jalmari Helander.
Joulupukki's dark side
Pagans used to have festivities to honour the return of the sun and some believe Joulupukki is the earliest form of present day Santa. The Yule Goat was thought by some to be an ugly creature and frightened children while others believe it was an invisible creature that helped prepare for Yule.
Most theorists believe when Christianity began incorporating Pagan ways into their festivals in order to justify the action, they merged the Pagan figure with an already existing Catholic legend known as Saint Nicholas to create Santa Claus.
Popular radio programs from the year 1927 onwards probably had great influence in reformatting the concept with the Santa-like costume, reindeer and Korvatunturi as its dwelling place. Because there really are reindeer in Finland, and Finns live up North, the popular American cult took root in Finland very quickly.
- Section on Finland in Christmas worldwide
- Rare Exports (movie)
- Santa Claus Village
- Yule Goat