Thousands of people have attended a traditional Christmas lunch in Helsinki, hosted by the Hursti Foundation.
President Sauli Niinistö attended this year’s event, and spoke about the need to find compassion, caring and humour to combat loneliness during the festive season.
“This is a Christmas celebration for anybody who wants to come. Mostly those who come here they might be homeless, they might be people struggling with life, they might have poor economic situation, maybe they’re just lonely and they just want to eat the Christmas meal” explains Ari Hursti, whose grandparents started the Hursti Foundation, and whose father Heikki and sister Sini run it today.
“We don’t care who comes, they’re just welcome” he adds.
Several thousand people were expected at Mesukeskus in Helsinki for the Christmas Eve event, which featured live music and festive decorations.
The food is donated by some of Finland’s biggest companies, or by private individuals who might give money to be used towards buying food at the Christmas celebration.
Behind the scenes a small army of volunteers gives up part of their Christmas Eve to serve the hot meals to the guests.
“It’s a pretty classic Finnish meal. There’s ham, there’s carrot casserole, turnip casserole, potato casserole” Ari Hursti tells News Now Finland.
The volunteers add beetroot salads, mustard for the ham, and pour on gravy in efficient production line before taking the hot food to the tables and serving them with juice. There’s also cake and coffee after the meal.
“After the celebration everybody gets a plastic bag of food to take away” Ari Hursti adds.
Ari Hursti’s family foundation is well known for giving food aid assistance twice each week in the capital’s Sörnäinen neighbourhood.
Thousands of people in the city experience food poverty and rely on the services of the Hursti Foundation, and other charities like the Salvation Army and local churches just to get enough to eat for themselves and their families.
Watch our video of the 2019 Hursti Foundation Christmas lunch in Helsinki: