Our family’s Christmas traditions!

From where did our Christmas traditions come?

In a letter my mother wrote from Ceylon on Christmas day 1950, she shared how our family had spent the last few Christmases.
“This was the best Christmas we’ve celebrated since we left Finland (in March 1946). We have not lived in the same house two Christmases in a row. Christmas 1946, I was with the children on board the Marine Falcon. We had just left Seattle and were on our way to Shanghai. Toimi would meet us there.

Christmas 1947, we had fled the Mao-Nationalistic war from Shenyang in Manchuriain September and arrived in Kunming late October.  We spent that Christmas in two rooms at a hospital hostel – with rats. Christmas 1948 we were still Kunming but had moved to different houses twice.

Christmas 1949 the children and I were refugees, alone in Hongkong. We had no news from Toimi in Kunming. We did not know if he was alive. Now we are all together since Toimi arrived in Ceylon in October this year.

My parents had followed the One who was …

School holidays on the Ebeneser

As soon as we had a school holiday, we had to go to the ship – it was the only way for us to be together as a family. It was not easy to arrange. We needed someone to come and watch our house while we were gone. It was not possible to go away and leave the house empty. There was always a risk of robbers coming to a vacant house.

Dad had moved Ebeneser from Colombo to Trincomalee. There he did not have to pay expensive port charges. It was also much cleaner in every way as there were not many ships that emitted soot and oil all the time. One could swim in the harbor around the boat without getting dirty from the oil from other ships.
The first few times it was fun to go to the boat during school holidays. We traveled north and northeast from Kandy through a lush landscape with all imaginable shades of green. 

Dogs, hens, ox carriages and people along the road posed a traffic risk. Fruit vendors sat in palm-leaf sheds selling pineapple, bananas, mangos and many other kinds of fruit. So…

Back to School in Kandy

Back to Girl’s High School in Kandy January 1956 My first day back in the school where I began my education in Kindergarten five and a half years earlier was a bit chaotic.
One of the senior girls guided me to my new classroom.  She said she was my House captain. I didn’t understand what that meant. Later I learned that I was a member of the Langdon House.  She was Geraldine Ekanayake.

She had asked me something about what  Grade or Standard I had been in the past year.  Or maybe she asked what Grade I was to be in this year.  I’m not sure which question I replied to as I had forgotten many words and was not sure how to speak English.  Finnish managed to bury my English vocabulary just in two and a half years away from the language. 

The classroom was in a barrack at the top of a flight of concrete steps. I was the only white girl – almost head and shoulders taller than all my classmates.  I guess I had said I was in grade three. 
I could not explain that the school year in Finland had ended in …

Conflict of interests

I had thought that dad would have more time to be at home with us when he had so many co-workers on the ship, but I was wrong. As far back as I could remember, dad was fulfilling his vision and mission, which more often than not, kept him away from home. 
When I was little, I accepted it as a normal part of life.   The important thing was that Mom was always at home with us  wherever we happened to live.

I still remember the feeling I got when he got into his van and drove away after getting us settled in our new home. I realized then that life would always be like this. There were other tasks and other people elsewhere that would still be more important for dad. I did not know anything about the significant problems he had with the boat and with some of the people in the group who had promised to be part of his team.
Dad had had a lot of experience during his many years as a missionary. He had high demands on himself - and expected almost as much of others. That did not function so well. …

Friends and Fairy Houses

The lawn and the cool shade under the large leaves of the breadfruit tree invited me to take a book and lie on my stomach and read. Inside it was too hot. 
I took a book, lay in the grass and started reading. When I had a good book, I forgot time and space and lost myself in the story. 

Mom called me to eat. I had to leave my beautiful world and go in. Mom first saw them. Several leeches had attached themselves to me. Some had fallen off. Mom took some salt and sprinkled it on the few that still were feeding in me. They fell off.  Never again would I lie down in the grass to read. 

Across from our house was a semi-detached house behind a hibiscus fence.  The two who girls lived there who became my friends.  Vinitha was a Sinhalese and Annette was a Burgher.  Vinitha lived with her mother and stepfather, her big brother and two younger siblings. Annette lived with her grandmother and grandfather.  Her parents and sisters lived in Colombo. Sometimes they came for a visit, as in the picture below…

Arrival in Kandy

We traveled to Kandy on January 10, 1956, the day before the new school year began. We had traveled the road from Colombo to Kandy 
many times during our earlier stay in Ceylon. 
Familiar landmarks brought back memories. 

As we drove uphill to Kadugannawa, the scenery over the hills made my heart beat faster. We were going back home, though we did not know where we would live.

The Kadugannawa Pass cat through a rock along the winding road.

Our last home in Kandy before we left in May 1953 was "The Retreat", Piachaud Gardens. 
Mrs. Lilian Piachaud had promised to save the annex for us if we returned to Ceylon within one year. As our return was delayed by the rebuilding of the Ebeneser, she had rented the place to a piano teacher instead.

When Mother traveled to Kandy to register us in our old schools in November 1955, she did not know where we could live. Two old ladies, Auntie Harriet and Auntie Annie, lived in a big house between the two schools. 
We could stay there until we found…


I woke up early in the morning to silence. The engines were shut down. I began to hear other sounds through the porthole, and a faint light of dawn seeped in. I got up and went out on the deck. Our sea journey was over. We had stopped.  
I watched as the first light of dawn changed colors and the bright sun rose behind the palms on the shore. We were just outside Colombo harbor. I heard a familiar sound among the trees. The sound rose stronger as the sun rays reached the treetops.
The crows cawing had woken me. The sound was familiar from our earlier years in Ceylon. The journey from Helsinki to Colombo on the transformed minesweeper had taken seventy-eight days. A pilot arrived and guided Ebeneser into the harbor. Our white boat looked tiny among the massive cargo and passenger ships. The blue and white Finnish flag waved in the aft and attracted curiosity among the crew of the other vessels. 
Soon the most curious came to visit. This was just what Dad had hoped. He was able to conv…