This past week I learned about kalsarikännit, the Finnish tradition of getting drunk at home in your underwear with no intent to leave the house. Really. It seems that this tradition moved beyond Finland in the past year while over half of the world population was under stay-at-home orders due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Kalsarikännit (how to pronounce kalsarikännit) literally means “drinking at home, alone, in your underwear” and I have also seen it loosely translated and anglicized as “pants drunk.”
The way I learned of the Kalsarikännit drinking “party” at home that never leaves home or gathers other guests is from the eighth collection of poems by Kim Addonizio titled Now We’re Getting Somewhere. I read that the collection is good companion reading to your practice of kalsarikännit.
In the U.S., this kind of behavior would likely be considered a sign of depression. Not so in Finland. Not so by Addonizio.
It is interesting that several other Nordic words came into wider usage the past few years. The Danish hygge referring to a certain kind of coziness and the Swedish lagom meaning “neither too much nor too little” have also had their social media moments the past few years. I doubt that all Finns are pleased with the image of this practice to outsiders of it being lonely people drunk at home on the couch.
Finland always gets high scores in the “happiness ratings” and they are often touted for having an excellent education system. As the not-so-serious book titled Pantsdrunk: Kalsarikanni: The Finnish Path to Relaxation suggests, this is more about staying calm and relaxing in a stressful world. The “drunk” aspect probably is deceiving too as overdrinking is not a requirement of the practice.
Based on social media posts alone, I suspect that some of my friends have been stripping down to underwear, lining up some snacks next to the bed or couch, grabbing the TV remote or their mobile device and pouring their preferred alcohol.
And hasn’t this been going on in first-world countries for a lot longer than the past few years? I’m sure that Homer Simpson models this practice, even though he could never pronounce the kalsarikännit.
Must you be in underwear? I think pajamas are acceptable. Must you get drunk? No, though feeling the effects does seem to be key. Does it even have to be alcoholic beverages? In the strict sense of the practice, yes, but there are no kalsarikännit police that I have seen, so get that mug of tea or cocoa ready.
Have you been practicing kalsarikännit for years without even knowing it? Drop us a comment.