Christmas City
 
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Turku is Finland's "Christmas City", a place that welcomes visitors from near and afar to experience a powerful traditional atmosphere. The message of Christmas itself reached Finland through Turku when Christianity arrived and many of the customs associated with the festival were mediated to the people by the courtiers at Turku Castle. In the city's museums and at most of the events arranged during the Christmas season, it almost feels as though one could reach out and touch the history. The custom of proclaiming "Christmas Peace" has been followed in Turku since the Middle Ages. There is a newer custom associated with the centuries-old one: an ecumenical appeal for peace by bishops of four denominations is sent to the whole world from underneath the stately arched vaults of the Cathedral every Christmas.

In honour of the season the whole of Turku dresses up in its best and the unique cityscape formed by the River Aura and its quays is illuminated to become a living work of art in a winter setting. The historical centre of the city is the Old Great Square spreading away from the foot of the Cathedral. Beside it stand the old City Hall and Brinkkala, from the balcony of which the proclamation of Christmas Peace is always made. A traditional old-style market is held in the square during the Christmas season. Anyone with a longing for complete tranquillity can head for the archipelago just offshore, a rare luxury for people who live in the bustle of urban life.

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The proclamation of peace is made in Turku at noon on Christmas Eve. The tradition is believed to date, almost without interruption, to the early part of the 14th century. Since 1994 all members of the European Broadcasting Union have been able to relay the ceremony. It has been broadcast on the radio in Finland since 1935 and televised since 1983. The text, which is read by a senior city official, has not changed in its essential content over the centuries: "Tomorrow, God willing, is the graceful jubilee of the birth of our Lord and Saviour; and thus is declared a time of general Christmas peace by urging all to celebrate this festival with due devotion ." Following old custom, there is a warning that anyone who breaches this peace or creates a disturbance through illegal or improper behaviour shall be punished "under aggravating circumstances".

See also:
WTF-O The wonderful world of Santa