Christmas started early for the Dakota Finnish Society. Make that Little Christmas. About 50 people of Finnish descent gathered at the Scandinavian Heritage Building in Minot Saturday afternoon to celebrate Pikkujoulu.
"We always have this celebration at Christmas time. It is Pikkujoulu, which is Little Christmas," said Marion Anderson, Dakota Finnish Society. "It's a little bit later than our Independence Day, which is Dec 6th. It is independence from Russia. This is the 96th one."
An assortment of Finnish gift items and homemade door prizes filled tables set aside for that purpose in the lower level of the Scandinavian Heritage Building. The aroma of meatballs, roast beef and mashed potatoes filled the dining area, where members of the Finnish Society were gathered.
The Dakota Finnish Society enjoyed traditional Finnish food as part of Pikkujoulu, or Little Christmas, at the Scandinavian Heritage Building Saturday.
"Some of these people are not Finns but are probably wanna-be Finns that have helped us out through the years," said Anderson with a smile. "There aren't as many Finns here as there is Norwegians, of course, but it is important to keep our customs and traditions alive."
Another holiday Finnish tradition noted by Anderson is the custom of taking lighted wreaths and candles to the burial places of family members on Christmas Eve. The candles are placed on the graves.
"Know your roots. It's good for everybody to know their roots, keep track of where they came from," said Anderson. "Learn it and teach it to somebody else."
Descendants of many of the original Finnish settlers can still be found in the region, particularly south of Stanley. It was there that a number of Finlanders settled in early day North Dakota.