Marjut 'Maikki' Mulari: Life lasts a only moment - Finnish Christmas carols

Did you know that the health benefits of singing are at least on a par with endurance sports?

Marjut Mulari istuu pöytään nojaten ja hymyilee.
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Music, especially singing, is incredibly good for your brain. It stimulates blood flow to the brain and may even increase its size. Singing can also improve attention and learning, even shape your personality. At its best, it can also relieve both mental and physical pain.

And that's not all: singing together reduces and prevents loneliness and increases cohesion, even among strangers. Singing in a choir has been shown to increase wellbeing and longevity by combining the health benefits of both music and community. Harri Koskela, a researcher in health psychology, for example, has stated that the happiest person in the world sings in a church choir and lives in Swedish-speaking Ostrobothnia.

Advent is a time of singing together all around the world. What makes it a bit special in Finland is that many Finnish Christmas carols are downright haunting dystopias. In them, life is bleak and dreary, a child is forgotten in the snow, a dead brother flies as a sparrow to his sister and the songbirds are being caged. Yet

Singing them before Christmas is extremely dear and important to many Finns, and the Christmas spirit would not come without them.

Finland is a gloomy country during the polar night. Perhaps it has been tolerated and dealt with over time by composing mournful songs - and then channeling deep feelings into their pathos-filled singing from decade to decade and century to century. In 1859, for example, Zacharias Topelius wrote the poem "Sparrow on Christmas Morning", which was later composed as a Christmas carol. Infant mortality was high, and Topelius himself had lost his one-year-old child the year before the poem was published.

The world has changed a lot since Topelius' time, mostly for the better. But the realities of human life remain the same: life lasts only for a moment, and it can indeed sometimes be bleak and dreary. But music and singing together can take the edge off the gloom. That's why singing is an act of health, and singing even the darkest carols is strangely therapeutic.

In this Wellbeing newsletter you will find the dates of caroling events on Haaga-Helia's Helsinki and Porvoo campuses. Come and lighten your mind and boost your brain health with some sweetly sad carols. There’s also room for at least a few joyful songs – after all, Christmas is a time for merriment even in Finland.