Year 1974 featured the second Finnish Christmas postage stamp issue, and rightfully the stamps decipted christmas elves. In nordic mythology christmas elves, or as finns call them tonttu’s, have a long tradition.
The origin of word tonttu comes from Swedish word tomte with roots back to ancient times. They were caretakers of a farmer’s home, particulary children or home animals all around the year. If you treated them, they did the same for you. But the wrath of tonttu was something many feared.
The 1890’s illustrations of Jenny Nyström turned this mythical character into white-bearded, red-capped friendly figure associated with Christmas. Initially they had nothing to do with Santa / Joulupukki, but as the American version of Santa and christmas elves became more popular, the mythology surrounding the tonttu’s evolved.
Nowadays they are santa’s little helper’s who keep track of children and take care of the animals of the forest. Usually tonttu’s move in pairs of two.
Taking care of wildlife, especially birds during the cold winter season is a task many Finns do with pride. Bird feeders are very common in most households, but especially on Christmas time many prefer old fashioned sheaf as displayed on the 1978 Christmas postage stamp.
The 1979 Christmas postage stamp continues on a similar theme of taking care of animals. The finnish tallitonttu, literally stable elve, was the caretaker of domestic animals. Especially stable elves shared a common habit of moving about only after nightfall.
One of the Finnish national epics is Seven Brothers (Finnish title: Seitsemän veljestä) by Aleksis Kivi first issued in year 1870. The book features also one of the most memorable descriptions of past christmas traditions on the peasent families. The topic of 1980 Christmas postage stamps takes it’s source from these traditions by displaying old time christmas games . This was also the first Christmas postage stamp issue to feature two separate stamps.
The 1981 Christmas postage stamps celebrate the Christmas tree. Like the 1980 stamp issue, the set contains two separate values and designs.
Once again, the stamp displays an idyllic image of past Christmas times when it was common for people to cut their own Christmas tree. These days most Finns live in cities and Christmas trees are purchased mainly on local market squares. But despite the changes, most Finnish homes still have a real christmas tree for the festival season.
The 1982 Christmas stamps celebrate a peacefull Christmas. The town of Turku has declared “Christmas peace” since the 1320’s – and usually this peace is considered to include men, domestic and wild animals, as well as mythical creatures like elves.
The lower value Christmas stamp displays good will with animals of the forest. Many finnish Christmas tales focus on the forest animals. A common feature for these stories is that during Christmas season all animals live peacefully with each other.