The Light and Dark of Winter Time

Helsinki is situated in the very south of Finland, beside the sea. For this reason, the winter is generally colder and more snowy in Northern and Eastern Finland than in Helsinki. In some winters the temperature on the coldest day can be above -20° C and only rarely does the temperature fall below -30° C. Helsinki has experienced many winters when even large snowfalls melt away completely, and this phenomenon may be repeated 2-3 times during the winter. It is quite rare for a continuous blanket of snow to cover the land in Helsinki from November to April.

Snow and winter affect living in Helsinki in many ways: they bring pleasure, opportunities for play and winter sports and beautiful landscapes, but they also bring traffic chaos and accidents, broken bones and bruises and lots of extra work. Wet snow can also soak footwear and give rise to chills. The cold and the snow are very expensive.

Pure, white snow provides extra light in the dark winter season and in Finland people speak of a 'black winter' if no snow is present.


Caretaker Hägg pictured in 1912 next to the Stockmann Department Store in a situation that could be repeated in future winters too. Although many kinds of machines and equipment have been developed for ploughing and moving snow, the shovel that Hägg is holding is still a useful tool. In the snowiest winters a total snow thickness of nearly 100 centimetres can fall, and massive piles of snow can be seen next streets and pavements. (KMKA:1702:2)
Lorries are pictured carrying snow from the West Harbour to snow dumping sites in 1931. The snow is always ploughed from the streets onto the pavements and that's why the pavements next to particularly wide streets quickly become blocked. The snow must then be removed to make room for pedestrians. (KMKA: 3148, photo AR)
The ice-breaker Jääkarhu (Polar Bear) is most likely opening the channel to Helsinki's South Harbour in 1926. Walking next to a channel opened by an ice-breaker is always a hazardous practice and such a photogenic sight is not very likely nowadays. Helsinki's harbours do not freeze during some winters, so the ice-breaker is not seen working in Helsinki water every year. (KMKA: 200058, photo JN)