It seems to me that children have always loved dressing up as someone that they are not. I remember as a kid that whenever I dressed up, I was transported in my imagination and play into another time period and another place. Often play was significantly inspired by the books we read and often we would play Little House on the Prairie. This past weekend on Palm Sunday was the day when children all around Finland dress up as little Easter Mummus or bunnies or, like in our case since we didn’t have any bunny costumes, we had one Bobcat and one Wild Thing. Earlier in the week the kids had decorated pussy willows that they brought to neighbors in exchange for a small chocolate egg or treat. They recite a poem that wishes the people of the house fresh and well wishes for the year to come.
According to Wikipedia, the tradition of Virvonta, originated from Orthodox Eastern Finland. The decorated pussy willows would be brought to the church the day before to be blessed and symbolized the palm branches that were used to greet Jesus as he rode the donkey into Jerusalem. The tradition of virvonta has spread across the country and there are slight variations in different areas. In some areas the children are called trolls that drive away bad spirits. Basically they are all dressed the same with rosy cheeks and freckles and colorful mismatched clothes and scarves.
I was looking through the old photos of Elma and concluded that certainly children liked dressing up back then as well. Elma had, as I have understood, made costumes for the kids. The kids are my Grampa Jim’s siblings, Reino and Margaret. I wonder what they might have played back then. They look a little chilly just as my kids do, as there is snow in the background.
Although Margaret and Reino are now much older, I think they look almost the same. Perhaps it is the eyes or the shape of face, but I think that there is a small child in all of us that never really ages.
On her trip to Finland, Elma visited the Eastern part and Viipuri or Vyborg which today is a part of Russia. She said that Finland had a tradition of asking all sorts of questions from the two women travelers when they wold check into a hotel. Sometimes the questionnaires would be two pages long. She reckoned that it was a remnant of border control practices that were used during the war between Finland and Russia.
“Name and address, where are you going and where are you coming from?” “rank?” I said that I do not have a rank (in society) “Well what do you do?” “Oh–what kind of work do I do?” That was easy to answer to. “Age” At first we would diligently write our age, but when we realized that they did not check our answers, we just wrote down an age that we felt like and one that we thought we could get by with. When you have lived for half a century in one place, where everyone knows everything about us, we didn’t want to carry all of our past from home with us and so we became younger and younger as our trip went on.
Perhaps it was the little child in her, that giggled silently, bubbling in her chest trying to make its way out when she had written 27 in the age box, although some telltale signs of gray could be seen. I giggled too, but not silently and when I told my neighbor about it we had a good laugh.
It could be entirely possible that she might have tasted these rahkapulla as I believe they have originated from Eastern Finland. Then again maybe not, since they are traditionally made for Easter but some home bakers will make them year round. I think she would have enjoyed them as much as our Isabella did.
Make a double batch of pulla dough that can be found in the link here.
Once the pulla dough has proved, lightly flour the counter and pour the dough onto the floured surface. Knead it a bit and divide it into 6 parts. Roll out each of the six parts into thick rods and divide that into 6 parts. Roll the small pieces of dough so that they forms small balls. Place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Allow to rise. Meanwhile make the rahka filling.
500 g/17.5 ounces quark or alternatively a thick Greek or Turkish yoghurt that has been drained could be used
1/2 dl/just under 1/4 c heavy cream
1 dl/ 1/2 c sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
zest of one lemon
Gently whisk the ingredients for the filling until combined.
After the pulla has proved, sprinkle with a little sugar and take a glass or cup and press it into each round pulla to make an indentation. Brush round edges of each pulla with eggwash. It is easier to do this at this stage. Spoon a generous tablespoon and a half into each indentation. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes at 200 C/390 F.