Finland

Posted by Ellen

Minna Canth, a popular Finnish playwright and unpopular radical activist, took up the pen in 1879, after her husband died, leaving her with seven children to support and raise.

She took over her father's fabric shop in Kuopio, about 250 miles north of Helsinki, and somehow found the time to write a play about a woman whose alcholic husband ran through all her money, leaving the family destitute. Laws needed changing, the drama clearly suggested, to give wives some control over family finances. The play was performed only once, after which the theater company was warned that it was about to lose its state grant of support.

Canth's next play, "Lopo the Peddler," was about an impoverished woman who tended toward petty thievery and alcoholism but who nonetheless had a heart of gold.

Over the years, she wrote about working-class suffering, unwed pregnancy and infanticide, religious hypocrisy, and many other social-realist themes. Her home became something of a salon for visiting intellectuals from Finland and beyond. She was among the first Finnish authors to publish her work in Finnish instead of Swedish, the traditional literary language.

Finnish students today read her work in school, and her plays are still performed in Finnish theaters. 

And she did get the laws changed so that married women could have money of their own.

Posted by Ellen

When the Cold War thawed, old Russian cultural traditions became new again, and Ded Moroz–Father Frost–emerged from hiding up near the Siberian part of the North Pole to resume his holiday responsibilities.

To acknowledge the new cultural politics, Ded Moroz's many colleagues in northern and eastern Europe–notably Joulupukki, Finland's Christmas Goatnow seek him out at border crossings and Christmas markets across the continent. The two Nicks typically engage in a little winter diplomacy, sometimes competing in endeavors such as chimney climbing.

This picture features Ded Moroz presenting a gift to Joulupukki during a diplomatic mission in Minsk, capital of Belarus. 

Incidentally, Ded Moroz can sleep in Christmas morning, because in Russia, the gift thing doesn't happen till New Year's. Happy New Year's one and all......