Finnish for busy people

Oikein surullista joulua – Leevi and the Leavings – Finnish Songs Analyzed

If you like music and translating Finnish song lyrics, then you might like this article. Below, you can find the lyrics of the song Oikein surullista joulua by Leevi and the Leavings. Listen to it here on YouTube.

1. About the Song Oikein surullista joulua

This song is a parody on Christmas songs. Despite the upbeat music, the band is wishing everyone an unpleasant, gloomy, cold, dark and unhappy Christmas.

2. About the Band Leevi and the Leavings

The band Leevi and the Leavings started producing music in 1978, but doesn’t exist any longer. The singer and guitarist Gösta Sundqvist wrote most of the band’s songs, which often are humoristic and ironic. They’ve been (and remain) pretty popular. The genre of music they produced is usually classified as suomirock. It’s the blend of rock music and schlager music, which has been popular in Finland.

There doesn’t seem to be a more profound meaning to the name of the band: it apparently just “sounded good”. Leevi is a Finnish first name, which has the same origin as Louis in English. The band doesn’t have any members that are called Leevi.

2. Song Lyrics –  Oikein surullista joulua

♬ Finnish song lyrics ♬ English translated lyrics
“Ding dong”, joulukellot soivat radiossa
“ding dong, ding dong”,
ja vahingossa melkein muistaa,
että autuaampi antaa kuin ottaa on.
“Ding dong”, Christmas bells ring on the radio
“ding dong, ding dong”,
and almost accidentally (one) remembers
that it’s more blessed to give than it is to receive.
Ja me toivotamme
ikävää, synkkää, kylmää, pimeää
ja oikein surullista joulua.
Ja me toivotamme
ikävää, synkkää, kylmää, pimeää
Ja surullista joulua.
And we wish (you)
an unpleasant, gloomy, cold, dark
and very sad Christmas.
And we wish (you)
a drab, gloomy, cold, dark
and a very sad Christmas.
“Ding dong”, kassakone kilkkaa
myymälässä, ja rahaa on.
Elämässä koittaa riemun aika auvoisa
kun joulu on.
“Ding dong”, the cash register jingles
in the store, and there is money.
A euphoric time of joy comes in life
for everyone, when it’s Christmas
Refrain Refrain
“Ding dong”, mandoliini soi
ja lapsikuoro l
aulaa: “Lalalaa.”
Nyt on vuoro joulukorttiin kirjoittaa,
mitä m
ieleen juolahtaa.
“Ding dong”, the mandolin rings
and the children’s choir sings:
Now it’s time to write on Christmas cards
whatever comes to mind.
Refrain Refrain

3. Glossary

The following grammar terms have been abbreviated.

  • sg3: third person singular
  • pl1: first person plural
  • pl3: third person plural

I have marked different elements of the analysis using the following symbols.

  • in italics: base word
  • (in brackets): translation
  • “in double quotation marks”: intended meaning
  • [square brackets]: saying, idiom, fixed phrase; rection

4. Leevi and the Leavings – Oikein surullista joulua – Finnish Song Analyzed

“Ding dong”,  joulukellot soivat radiossa “ding dong, ding dong”
Ding dong sound made by a bell or doorbell
joulukellot joulukello (Christmas bell), T-plural “the Christmas bells”
soivat soida (to ring, to sound), pl3 present tense
radiossa radio, inessive case “on the radio”
“Ding dong”, Christmas bells ring on the radio “ding dong, ding dong”

In Finnish, you will say that songs are played in the radio and TV shows are displayed in the TV. That’s why we use the missä-form for radio, even though it’s best translated as “on the radio”.

The verb soida can be used in Finnish for many object that make a noise:
Joulukellot soivat. “The Christmas bells ring”
Ovikello soi. “The doorbell rings”
Mandoliini soi. “The mandolin sounds”
Musiikki soi. “The music is playing”
Puhelin soi. “The phone is ringing”

ja vahingossa melkein muistaa
ja and, conjunction
vahingossa vahinko (accident), inessive case “by accident, accidentally”
melkein almost
muistaa muistaa (to remember), sg3 present tense “one remembers”
and almost accidentally (one) remembers

The word vahingossa “by accident” is a good adverb to learn! You can say “Se oli vahinko” (it was an accident), but you will more often find the missä-form vahingossa. Use it with verbs other than olla (e.g. otin sen vahingossa; se tapahtui vahingossa; käytin vahingossa väärää polttoainetta).

The third person singular muistaa is used in this phrase as a passive form. I have a separate article all about generic sentences.

että autuaampi antaa kuin ottaa on.
että that, conjunction
autuaampi autuas (blessed), comparative “more blessed”
antaa to give
kuin than (read more)
ottaa to take, basic form (here: to receive)
on olla (to be), sg3 present tense “it is”
that it’s more blessed to give than it is to receive.

Neutral word order: “Autuaampi on antaa kuin ottaa.”

This phrase exists in many languages, because it appears in the Bible (Acts of the Apostols, 20:35 FB92). While the Finnish Bible translation uses ottaa to mean “to receive”, this verb generally means “to take”. A different translation for “to receive” would be saada.

The adjective autuas is very much a biblical word, so you will mostly see it in religious contexts. However, it can be used in other contexts to describe a blissful, glorious feeling or moment.


Ja me toivotamme ikävää, synkkää, kylmää, pimeää
ja and, conjunction
me we, first person plural personal pronoun
toivotamme toivottaa (to wish), pl1 present tense, rection: [käyttää + partitive], “we wish”
ikävää ikävä (unpleasant, tedious, drab), partitive because of toivottaa
synkkää synkkä (bleak, gloomy), partitive because of toivottaa
kylmää kylmä (cold), partitive because of toivottaa
pimeää pimeä (dark), partitive because of toivottaa
And we wish (you) an unpleasant, gloomy, cold, dark

The verb toivottaa means “to wish, to bestow a wish”. This verb usually gets a double rection: you will use the kenelle-form (allative case) for the person your wish is meant for, and the partitive case for the thing you wish them. In the song, only the partitive is used.

The verb toivottaa gets often mixed up by learners of Finnish with the verb toivoa. The latter means “to hope”. You will find toivoa in sentences such as “Toivon, että sinulla on kaikki hyvin” (I hope you’re doing well). You could rephrase “Toivotan sinulle hyvää joulua” by saying “Toivon, että sinulla on hyvä joulu“. However, the verb toivottaa is much more common in that context.

The noun these adjectives are attached to is in the following section: joulua.

ja oikein surullista joulua.
ja and, conjunction
oikein very, truly, really
surullista surullinen (sad), partitive because of toivottaa
joulua joulu (Christmas), partitive because of toivottaa
and a very sad Christmas.

The verb of this phrase ended up in the previous section, so scroll up to see the beginning of this sentence.

Generally, you don’t wish people a very sad Christmas of course. This song is just a little contrary. Here are some things you could wish people near the end of the year:

Toivotan sinulle hyvää joulua. “I wish you a merry Christmas” – Hyvää joulua!
Toivotamme teille onnellista uutta vuotta. “We wish you a happy new year” – Onnellista uutta vuotta!

An interesting wish you will hear during the weeks before christmas is Hyvää joulunodotusta!
This phrase contains the words joulu (Christmas) and odotus (waiting, anticipation). This is a phrase used to wish you well during the days or weeks before Christmas, while you’re getting into the Christmas spirit.

“Ding dong”, kassakone kilkkaa myymälässä
Ding dong sound made by a bell or doorbell
kassakone cash register
kilkkaa kilkkaa (to jingle, tinkle), sg3 present tense “jingles”
myymälässä myymälä (shop, store), inessive case “in the shop”
“Ding dong”, the cash register jingles in the store

“Ding dong” is not usually the phrase used for the sound a cash register makes, but this is a repetitive phrase in this song, so it works in this context.

You’re more likely to see the verb kilkattaa used rather than kilkkaa in real life situations. Myymälä is a more official word for kauppa.

ja rahaa on.
ja and, conjunction
rahaa raha (money), partitive because unspecified amount
on olla (to be), sg3 present tense, “there is”
and there is money.

The song isn’t clear on who has money, it just says that there is money. Probably in the stores.

Elämässä koittaa riemun aika auvoisa kaikille
Elämässä elämä (life), inessive case “in life”
koittaa koittaa (to begin), sg3 present tense “begins”
riemun riemu (joy, glee), genitive case, “of joy”
aika time
auvoisa happy, euphoric
kaikille kaikki (everyone, all), kenelle (allative case) “for everyone”
In life, a euphoric time of joy comes for everyone

Neutral word order: Elämässä koittaa auvoisa riemun aika kaikille. This sentence claims that everyone is taken over by a euphoric feeling of joy as the holidays approach.

The verb koittaa “to begin” is used to refer to, for example, the beginning of a season or a new era. In other contexts, you will use the verb alkaa rather than koittaa (e.g. Koulu alkaa, loma alkaa).

The adjective auvoisa (or auvoinen) is a very literary adjective which you won’t see very often. Other adjectives that also mean “happy” are for example onnellinen and riemukas.



“Ding dong”, mandoliini soi
Ding dong sound made by a bell or doorbell
mandoliini mandolin
soi soida (to sound, to ring), sg3 present tense “sounds”
“Ding dong”, the mandolin sounds

The verb soida is used earlier in this song in the phrase “Joulunkellot soivat“. Make sure not to confuse this verb with soittaa! You will say Minä soitan mandoliinia “I play the mandolin”, but Mandoliini soi “The mandolin is playing/making sound”.

ja lapsikuoro laulaa: “Lalalaa.”
ja and, conjunction
lapsikuoro children’s choir
laulaa laulaa (to sing), sg3 present tense “sings”
lalalaa sound of the choir singing
and the children’s choir sings: “Lalalaa.”

In Finland, it’s common for schools and congragations to organize Christmas concerts for choirs.

Nyt on vuoro joulukorttiin kirjoittaa, mitä mieleen juolahtaa.
Nyt now
on olla (to be), sg3 present tense “it is”
vuoro turn, time
joulukorttiin joulukortti (Christmas card), mihin-form “on Christmas cards”
kirjoittaa to write
mitä mikä (what), relative pronoun, partitive case “what”
mieleen mieli (mind), mihin-form “to mind”
juolahtaa phrase: juolahtaa mieleen (to come to mind)
Now it’s time to write on Christmas cards whatever comes to mind.

The noun vuoro is used in phrases such as “Onko minun vuoroni?” (Is it my turn) and “Nyt on sinun vuorosi” (Now it’s your turn). This word can also be used to express the next step in a sequence: “Ja nyt vuorossa on lahjojen jako!” In English, you will generally translate this as “time” rather than “turn”: And now it’s time to distribute the presents!

The verb kirjoittaa is used in this song with the mihin-form of joulukortti to express that we’re writing text on the card. In Finnish, you write things “in” a card rather than “on”. That’s just a different way of thinking about it.

If you simply want to talk about writing Christmas cards, you could say:
Kirjoitan joulukortin: I write a Christmas card.
Kirjoitan sinulle joulukortin: I will write you a christmas card.
Kirjoitan joulukortteja: I write (an unspecified amound of) Christmas cards.
Kirjoitan joulukortit: I write (all) the Christmas cards.
Kirjoitan joulukorttiin “hyvää joulua”: I write “Merry Christmas” on the Christmas card.

The phrase juolahtaa mieleen is a fairly common way to express that something comes to mind, springs to mind. You should learn this one as a phrase, because juolahtaa isn’t used in other contexts than this. In this song, the singer expresses that they just write whatever comes to mind: it’s not planned or thought-through properly.


That’s all for the song Oikein surullista joulua by Leevi and the Leavings!

If you want to learn some more Christmas related vocabulary, I have an article all about joulu here!

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This is awesome! So many Leevi and the Leavings songs to do. Many are sad, but let me be first in line for Pohjois Karjala.

Inge (admin)

I love Leevi and the Leavings, so there may indeed be more of these coming 🙂 Thanks for the suggestion!


I have a question about vahingossa. Could it be replaced here by sattumalta? As far as I know, vahingossa is when something happens due to some mistake, when one accidentally makes something wrong, while sattumalta is more like when something happens coincidentally, without anyone planning it. But are those words somehow interchangable? For instance, in this song I would rather expect sattumalta but maybe vahingossa was used on purpose. Does it sound natural to say for instance Eilen tapasin vahingossa minun ystäväni. in the sense that I met him/her coincidentally, without arranging any meeting? Or does it sound as if I actually wanted to avoid meeting him/her but eventually I met?

Inge (admin)

Your final question is correct! It’s very strange to say that you met someone vahingossa; like you were actively trying to avoid them.

The vahingossa in the song is also unusual in a similar way: it conveys the meaning that people want to receive gifts, ie. they want to focus on what they get for Christmas. But then, accidentally, they might almost remember that giving presents is supposed to be more previous than receiving them. Almost, but not quite :p