Former Astoria resident Sheryl Ginn, who now lives in Sitka, Alaska, posted an interesting tidbit on Facebook recently. “I used to enjoy Edla Allen’s memories in the Columbia Press about growing up in Uppertown from the 1970s and 1980s,” she wrote.
“Here’s part of one from Jan. 1, 1988: ‘During many of my growing up years, we had a New Year’s Watch get-together at home. In addition to the tradition riisi-puuro (rice pudding) and fruits and nuts, we had the New Year’s Predictions. This was done by melting lead in the old kitchen stove’s hot fire in an iron dipper. Then the hot lead was poured by each into a tub of cold water. The different shapes that formed, sizzling in the water, were then the prophecy for the year — as, perhaps, a ship’s shape would indicate a sea journey.’”
The Ear found this tradition is called Uuden Vuoden Tina, and was a used as a divination technique in ancient Greece. It is a New Year’s tradition in Finland to this day, and tin, lead or beeswax can be used.
“Do any of Astoria’s Finns do the lead predictions today?” Sheryl wondered. The answer is yes.
“Our family has done this tradition for years, going back to when I was a child in Astoria, and we continued it for our children,” John Niemi replied. “Each person takes a turn melting the lead ... and then throwing the melted lead into a bucket of ice water. The lead forms an abstract figure.” Pictured, his photo of a figure which was interpreted as “Togetherness.””
The oldest woman present, or someone representing her wearing a ‘huivi’ or head scarf, is the ‘Vollentina’ (as we called her), and she interprets the figure as a prediction of the person’s fortune for the New Year. The figure is kept by each person for the year.” (Jan. 16, 2015)