Finnish for busy people

Finnish Winter Phenomenons Vocabulary

While making my article with winter vocabulary, I repeatedly ran into the problem that some words just aren’t easy to translate. So I am following up that article with this one about Finnish winter phenomenons.

Some of these words might not exist in English. They also might be so obscure in English that you wouldn’t understand them unless you were a native English speaker. Some words also just have such an interesting cultural background attached to them. These things were left unexplained due to the nature of the vocabulary article. Now we can dig into them though!

1. Kaamos

The first of our Finnish winter phenomenons is kaamos. Kaamos or kaamosaika refers to the period in the North of Finland where the sun just doesn’t rise. These days, its meaning has also broadened a little: it can also be used to refer to gloomy weather in autumn and winter.

Related to kaamos is kaamosmasennus “winter depression”. Seasonal affective disorder, aka the winter blues” is what we call depressive episodes that repeatedly manifest themselves during the darkest period of the year.

One of the ways to treat SAD is with light therapy. You can buy light therapy lamps in electronics stores pretty much all year around. Another – rather expensive – way to battle the lack of sunlight is through winterly vacations to tropical places.

Finnish English
kaamos polar night
kaamosmasennus seasonal affective disorder
talvimasennus winter depression
kirkasvalohoito light therapy

2. Talvikunnossapito

The lovely word talvikunnossapito will be familiar to you if you live in Finland. You generally see it on signs next to small roads and paths, in the negative: EI talvikunnossapito. The word consists of three parts: talvi-kunnossa-pito “winter-inorder-keep”. It warns pedestrians that the road they are nearing won’t be kept in winter. Unlike all other roads, there will be no winter maintenance to these roads. This means they can be slippery or completely snowed over.

Finnish English
talvikunnossapito winter maintenance
kyltti sign
jalankulkija pedestrian
liukas slippery
aurata to snowplow
tie ummessa road closed

3. Talvitie Jäätie

Finland has long and snowy winters. A talvitie “winter road” is a temporary road built from snow and ice. People have built and used these for a long time in Finnish history. A talvitie often connected castles to each other, or went from one village to another.

Why would they not have a road in the same spot during summer, then? Well, often a talvitie would be built on ground that – during summer – is more like a swamp, or would have lots of large rocks.Whenit has snowed enough, these rocks would have been hidden underneath a thick layer of snow.

A jäätie “ice road” is a similar road, but over water. In winter, people living on one side of a lake can cross the ice to get to the other side. Winter roads can be used by cars and trucks, because the minimum thickness of the ice is 20 centimeters.

Finnish English
talvitie winter road
jäätie ice road
tilapäinen temporary
oikotie shortcut

4. Takatalvi

I think takatalvi “back winter” is a wonderful word. In English, it can be called a “blackberry winter”. The word refers to a cold weather period that happens in spring, after the weather has warmed up already.

In Finland, it’s very likely that you get a takatalvi each year. Spring starts, the snow melts and then, suddenly, the temperatures drop again and you get another period of snow and frost.

The opposite of a takatalvi is a intiaanikesä “indian summer”. This is when you get a warmer weather period after temperatures have dropped in autumn. This is very rare in Finland. While we can expect a takatalvi pretty much every year, intiaanikesä is much more rare.

Finnish English
takatalvi blackberry winter
talvi palaa winter returns
lämpötila laskee the termperature drops
kevät on peruttu spring has been canceled
intiaanikesä indian summer

5. Kelirikko

Kelirikko or rospuutto usually happens during spring and autumn. When temperatures rise above freezing, dirt roads without asfalt can become so soft and muddy that it’s impossible to use them. You could call it mud season or rasputitsa in English.

Finnish English
kelirikko rasputitsa
kulkukelvoton impossible to traverse
sulaa to melt
loska slush

6. Hankikanto

In early spring, when the sun shines, but it’s still cold, we get hankikanto. The word consists of the nouns hanki “snow crust” and kanto from the verb kantaa “to carry”. During daytime, the snow/ice on the ground starts to melt a little, to then freeze again during night time. When this happens several days in a row, the snow turns into a hard, frozen layer.

It’s lovely to walk on the hankikanto. You can easily walk on this layer. It will crunch below your shoes, but your feet won’t go through the layer.

Finnish English
hankikanto crusted snow
tiivistyä to condense
narskua to crunch
pintakerros top layer

7. Talvipäivänseisaus

Talvipäivänseisaus “winter solstice” is the shortest day of the year. This doesn’t mean the day in hours is shorter itself, but rather that the sun stays up a little longer. Especially in Northern Finland, you will barely see the sun in winter. The sun rises, stays up for two or three hours, and then sets again.

However, this starts turning around at talvipäivänseisaus! This day happens just before Christmas: on the 21st or 22nd of December. Starting from this day, the sun will stay up a little bit longer every single day. It’s not an abrupt change: the sun could stay up about three minutes longer every day. The day keeps lengthening this way until, in summer, Northern Finland gets to experience yötön yö “nightless night” again, where the sun doesn’t set at all at night.

Finnish English
talvipäivänseisaus winter solstice
vuoden lyhyin päivä shortest day of the year
aurinko sun
päivä pitenee the day gets longer
yö lyhenee the night gets shorter

8. Tykkylumi

And so we come to the last of these Finnish winter phenomenons. If you’ve seen pictures of Lapland in winter, you’ve probably seen tykkylumi. According to wikipedia is called “crown snow-load” in English. Tykkylumi is the snow that collects on trees in such large quantities that you can’t even see the branches anymore. Each tree is like a giant, fully covered snow pillar. Definitely worth seeing if you’re traveling inside of Finland!

Finnish English
tykkylumi crown snow-load
Lappi Lapland
oksa branch
lumen peitossa covered in snow

Those are the eight Finnish winter phenomenons I wanted to explain! Did you learn anything new? Is there a weather phenomenon I didn’t cover that you find really interesting? Let me know in the comments!

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