These days the Finnish nation is divided into two. Those who have their Shrovetide pullas with jam and those who want it filled with almond paste. Shrovetide (laskiainen in Finnish) originates from Christian culture, and originally marked the days before fasting, seven weeks before Easter. Shrove Sunday, which is today and Shrove Tuesday, which is also called The Pancake Day in English speaking countries, and Mardi Gras in French, has traditionally been celebrated by eating heavy and greasy food, as this has been the last chance to do it. And the greasier your hands were after eating, the better luck and crop that year.
Although as with many festive days, the original reasons for celebration have been somewhat forgotten, many enjoy the traditional foods associated with this day. Pea soup, and special sweet bread, pulla, filled with whipped cream and either with almond paste or strawberry jam. Some people like to have their pulla in a bowl of hot milk. The day is also celebrated by going downhill sledging, for example in Helsinki student groups gather in a local park with the best hill for the purpose, and get creative with their sledges, which can pretty much take any shape or form from card board boxes to sofas with skis. (Some photos of it in Helsingin Sanomat)
You can make your, now also internationally acclaimed, pulla with this recipe. Cut the top off, take some of the pulla off inside to make room for jam (I best like raspberry jam) or almond paste and some whipped cream, and put the hat back on. You can also dust the top with some icing sugar.
Today happens to be also Valentine's Day. Compared to Shrovetide, this is a relatively new day in Finnish culture, and therefore not so rich with traditions. We call it “Friend's Day”, and I would like to wish all of you lovely people out there, near and far, Happy Friend's Day! It's a priviledge and such a joy to get to know you!