To the Memory of Normal Life, Part 2: Mrs. Grump at Christmas Market

Destination: Finnish Christmas Market, Zürich, Switzerland

There will be no Finnish Christmas Market in Zürich this year. You know, because of the Corona. If you read the story of us participating there last year (originally published on 7.12.2019), you would assume I wouldn’t really care. (If you’re unfamiliar with the story, you can read it underneath!) But quite surprisingly, I find myself feeling sad. Even Christmas and everything that goes with it will be different in this damned year of 2020. Mrs. Grump has to find new grounds for getting grumpy, but I suppose that won’t be too hard… the pandemic is making it easy! Let’s all get grumpy about that!!!
I know, I know… I promised to write more about our Wallis adventure next, but here I am getting all sentimental again. Sorry! I will (hopefully) get back to Wallis eventually! So here’s another old story to the memory of normal life…

Travel Diary:

The scent of gingerbread cookies, softwood tree needles, Joulutorttu, and carrot casserole. Radio singing in the background, playing the theme music from the movie Snowman… or some of the more traditional Christmas carols. Ho-ho’s of Santa Claus and kids screaming for joy (or fear, mind you…). Snow scrunching under your boots in the silent forest on a frosty night. Candles shining in the darkness and stars twinkling in the dark night sky. To me, all this means Christmas. Finnish Christmas. A specific mixture of scents, sounds, and lights.

Given this background information, picture this: One tired evening, I was aimlessly browsing through several social media sites when I was suddenly awakened from my hibernation… A corner of my eye had caught up an ad for a Finnish Christmas Market. Oh, cool, I thought, and all these scents, sounds, and lights described above started floating through my very Finnish brain. My Christmas mood was rising faster than Rudolf the Red nose Reindeer floats in the sky on Christmas Eve, and like bewitched, I immediately began planning a trip to this must-be-next-to-heaven-Christmas-market.

I should’ve known better. After seven years and counting, I really should have known better… But, obviously, I was bewitched; my mind was blurred with all these mental visions about childhood Christmases… so when the day came, I packed my kids into a huge and clumsy rental sports utility vehicle (yes, unfortunately, our faithful servant Skoda das Auto was ONCE AGAIN not so faithful and needed to be transported to garage in hopes of becoming faithful again…) and off we went. The Finnish Christmas Market was taking place in the heart of the city of Zürich. The day was grayish-like, exactly how the so-called winter days often are around here. And somehow, the scenery did NOT miraculously change into a shiny white Finnish winter wonderland on the way. Nope. Zürich was as grey and as busy as ever. I really should have realized then the latest to change my expectations. Didn’t happen. I was still bewitched. 

Navigating through the city was getting on my nerves big time. Quite as always. And finding a parking space for the clumsy SUV from the narrow streets proved nearly impossible without wrecking someone else’s vehicle in the process. Finally, I succeeded, just to find out that the parking time was very limited, and we had only one and a half hours to reach the destination, enjoy the magical Christmas market and make our way back to the car. Good luck, I thought and started to feel a bit grumpy. We walked through the gray streets (or I walked; the kids were jumping around) and entered Migrationskirche, the building that was supposed to be hiding the Finnish Christmas wonderland inside of its walls. 

Instead of warm and Christmassy, the place felt gloomy. And it smelled like too many sweaty people packed in a room too small. Air was thick; you could have almost cut a piece of it with a pocket knife. No decorations, no scent of softwood tree needles in the air. And there were SO MANY PEOPLE inside. At this point, I have to tell you that Finns are pretty strict about their personal space. Maybe one starts losing the strictness in this matter after spending years abroad, but seven years and counting was definitely not enough for me to lose ANY of it. I started feeling claustrophobic, and our little princess was tucking at my sleeve, saying: mommy, there are too many people in this room. Little Prince Charming was not saying anything, but his bewildered eyes gave me a pretty accurate idea of what was going through his cute little head. And they were both born in Switzerland. Apparently, you CAN inherit the need for personal space…

Finally, the spell was broken, and my eyes were opened. Absolutely no Christmas magic around here. Heroically, I tried swallowing my mood, which was getting grumpier every second and escorted the kids deeper into the ocean of people. We went through stands one by one, being hopelessly stuck between everyone else. Finally, my true car-lover boy, little Prince Charming, said: mommy, there’s an enormous traffic jam here. And I agreed. Sweet little Princess was agitated but bravely behaving herself. As expected, Prince Charming started to lose his grip when we were halfway through the market and started pulling tablecloths off the stands. Yippee, I thought, trying to maintain calm and stop him from doing too much damage, feeling the eyes of salespersons drilling into my back.


I made a desperate attempt to save the day and reminded my kids about the fact that there were definitely some Carelian Pies at the cafe. I could almost taste the pies in my mouth already and started approaching the cafe rather determinedly through the crowd. Oops. Again, very little have I learned during my years in this country. Our sweet little princess is lactose intolerant and cannot freely eat products that contain milk, like, let’s say, Carelian Pies, for example. The Finnish food industry happens to be a real forerunner in these things, and over there, you can buy basically almost everything lactose-free. I was thinking of Fazer Bakery’s Carelian Pies that are automatically lactose-free and ended up staring at some homemade copies, definitely NOT lactose-free. CRAP. Now I was feeling REALLY grumpy. That was my mistake; I REALLY should have known better by now… But somehow, I got so carried away with my own MEMORIES of Finland… a form of some sort of homesickness, maybe? Or something everybody experiences at some point in the process of integration…? 

Anyway, I calmed the now-very-angry sweet little princess down with an overpriced box of Moomin candies and studied the prices of my favorite Finnish chocolate while kids were concentrating on their candy boxes. Outrageously over-priced, I thought and got even more grumpy. You better order them from Fazer Candy Store. At this point, I had seriously had enough. All my Christmassy fantasies had been blown into the gray air of the city of Zürich. I guided the kids out of the building and miraculously made it back to the car within the time frame given by parking rules. 

Feeling miserable, I packed the kids in the car and headed through the city. Towards home, towards our own little Finland located in a little SWISS village somewhere in the countryside of Switzerland. Mrs. Grump and her kids were on the way home. What a crappy day, I marveled in my mind, what a crappy Christmas market. Then a little disruptive thought twinkled in the corner of my brain: maybe, just maybe… there was something wrong with my own attitude and expectations. After all, everyone else seemed to be perfectly happy and enjoying. Good for them, my Grumpy self said to my other self. Never again! Just wait and see; we’ll definitely do it again next year, said my other self. Just don’t expect it to be like your childhood Christmases in Finland. My grumpy self grunted. She was really not quite ready to give up just yet. Even though she knew her other self had made a good point. And me. I was in the mood to let the grumpy side win. I promised myself next year I would only go to a Swiss Christmas Market.

Joulutorttu. photo:pixabay

It was already dark when I pulled up to the parking space next to our house. I knew there would be no scent of gingerbread cookies, softwood tree needles, Joulutorttu, and carrot casserole when I opened the door. But at least Christmas lights and candles were shining in the darkness, and theme music from the movie Snowman was playing silently in the background. Two little ones had adopted my grumpiness somewhere in between Zürich and our home and started a fight as soon as they entered the house. Merry Christmas, I ho-hoed to myself and started pulling the two little fist-fighters apart…


Traveler’s information:

Location: Zürich, Switzerland

With a car: Navigate to Migrationskirchen, Zürich (Rosengartenstrasse 1 A, 8037 Zürich). Finding parking space won’t be easy, but you can try from the surrounding streets.

Public Transportation: Write Migrationskirchen to the place of your desired destination. Go to Railway Timetables

Cost: There is no entrance fee. If you purchase products, you will naturally pay for those.

Open: this year is cancelled. Check the next dates from the webpage of Migrationskirchen

Services: restaurant, toilets, market tables

More Information available at their website

For more tourist attractions in the city of Zürich, click here