According to the undisputed hub of all human understanding, Wikipedia, "Finland is regarded as the home of Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus, living in the northern Lapland region." Wikipedia also reveals Santa's actual address:
Santa Claus Village
Arctic Circle, Finland
This is supposed to be the third in my ad hoc "series" of primers on the countries I don't know anything about. But, frankly, I'm too disoriented by this whole Santa of Finland thing to be able to give Finland its due. But what do they care? They have Santa.
Here's some Finnish tidbits I turned up [everything from Wikipedia] before the brain freeze, and a few things I actually knew:
- More Santa: apparently, the original reports of Santa, dating back several hundred years, noted that he tended to scare the children, mostly because of his habit of demanding presents as opposed to giving them. Also, he may have been all or part goat.
- Finland is expanding. Literally. Turns out there's this thing called "post glacial rebound," which means that the old Ice Age ice was so heavy that it shoved down the land underneath, and so, now freed from the glacier, Finland is literally poking a little bit more out of the sea every day. Finland gets 2.7 square miles bigger every year.
- Now, about those glaciers: "All terrestrial life in Finland was completely wiped out during the last ice age that ended some 10,000 years ago." I like that Wikipedia uses the phrase all terrestrial life.
- Seventeen years ago, there was this great 60 Minutes segment on the Finnish character or psychology or whatever you want to call it. I never forgot the segment or its punchline (which I won't give away). I was thrilled to find it on youtube:
- Jari Kurri is the most famous Finnish hockey player. Teemu Selanne the biggest current star. Finnish ex-Kings include the triple threat of Olli Jokinen, Aki Berg and Lauri Tukonen.
- The national sport of Finland is Pesäpallo. Pesapallo was invented around 1920 and is based on American baseball, with some interesting differences. There is no catcher. The pitcher stands at home plate and throws the ball...straight up in the air. When it comes down, the batter attempts to hit it, which it turns out is not hard. The pitch is a strike if it bounces on home plate. If the batter hits the ball, he runs to first base, which is to the left, not the right. Second base is where first base should be, so the runner would advance by zig-zagging across the field (where the pitchers mound would be if there were such a thing). Third base is up the
third base linefirst base line behind first base. If the batter hits the ball out of the park, what we would call a home-run, it is a strike. But if the batter hits the ball and it bounces within the field of play, he must run to first base. But only If he has two strikes against him. If he has zero or one strike against him, he has the option of staying right where he is. What else? Oh, yeah: if a fielder catches a fly ball or a line drive, it is not an out. It's a haava, which means wound. A haava is described, somewhat ambiguously, as being "somewhere between an out and a score." When a haava occurs, all players on the batting team who are not on base or at-bat "return" to home-plate. I don't know where they were prior. They are now "wounded" and cannot become "unwounded" until two runs are scored. A home run is scored if a player reaches, what else, third base before the ball arrives. A home-run counts as a point. The player who scored the home-run has the option of staying at third base and trying to score again. Somehow. Oh, and remember I said the batter has the option of staying right where he is after hitting the ball? With two strikes, he also has the option of just taking off after the pitch is released (straight up, remember) without making an attempt at hitting the ball at all. Sort of like stealing first, I guess. The pitcher, who is also the catcher really, has to wait for the ball to bounce on the plate before he can attempt to throw the batter out. Unless the pitch misses the plate, in which case it is a ball. Which is also a walk, because a walk is one ball, not four. Three strikes and you're out. But since it's virtually impossible to swing and miss, strikes are mostly foul balls, which, as I said, may well be home runs. Other than that, it's exactly like baseball. Or Fizzbin:
- The ratio of the population of Finland to current NHL players from Finland is 156,258:1. That is the second lowest ratio, behind Canada.