Experience the holiday magic by my dear friend Finnish artist Jani Leinonen at Dolder Grand Hotel, who has for the second time portrayed his idea of Christmas in a colossal art project for the Dolder Grand. For last year’s installation, click here please. Yesterday, I went to lunch with him in Zurich and heard all about this beautiful artwork.

Leinonen, who was born in Finland, has created a lighting installation consisting of stained glass windows, which will be on display in the Canvas Bar & Lounge from 1 December 2023, transforming the space into an arena of colours and patterns. «It’s probably the most beautiful work of art I’ve ever created», he says. And the most elaborate. «The making of stained glass windows is based on a complex technique that uses light to change the appearance of the space and can have a calming effect on the observer – both physically and emotionally. The history of stained glass windows is full of elaborated meanings that not only illustrate fundamental concepts of life – such as death, birth and the meaning of life – but also reflect the belief systems and power structures in our society.»


To give his pieces deeper meaning, Leinonen asked 24 people from around the world – including artists, authors, mothers and children – to write a personal letter to Father Christmas. «The letters lend each light cube a special meaning that encompasses not only joy, but also grief, loss and the hope for a better world», he adds. «We received letters from all over the world, including one from an Egyptian poet who has been in prison since 2018 because of his poems. There is also a letter from a Ukrainian artist called Olena, who had to leave her home because of the war. And a letter from Basil, who has been living in the Za’atari refugee camp in the Jordanian desert since war broke out in Syria in 2011

Got a very special message from Jani in the book.

All the letters have been compiled in a book, created in collaboration with designer Riikka Kuukka, the aim being to reflect what Santa Claus really means to us. But they also show how different people’s wishes or messages are. Jenni from the Arctic, for instance, wants winter to return. Ten-year-old Maya wants some money for piano lessons. Gina wants her brother back. «The letters are not at all what I was expecting», states Leinonen. «But they do show that, for many, this has not been an easy year – or decade.»

Jani Leinonen has assigned a letter to each of the cubes he has created. A new light cube illuminates every day, symbolising that this particular wish is to be fulfilled. To fulfil the wishes of people in need, the Dolder Grand sends Christmas greetings to its guests, customers and partners by digital means, donating the saved production and Christmas postage costs to Winterhilfe Schweiz. This aid organisation assists families, couples and individuals affected by – often invisible – poverty.

I absolutely recommend the pumpkin soup at the Canvas Bar & Lounge at the Dolder Grand.

The light show will be celebrated at 6 p.m. every day from 1 to 24 December 2023, accompanied by music and a Christmas aperitif for all those gathered in the Canvas Bar & Lounge.

And what does the artist himself want for Christmas? «On 24 December, I’d like all the light cubes to be lighting up the Dolder Grand in radiant colours, and for the wishes of those who have written the letters and read the book to come true. That’s my Christmas wish

Hyvää Joulua Maailmam upeimalle Sandralle!
Merry Christmas to the world’s most wonderful Sandra!

Thank you, Jani!

LoL, Sandra

Photos: © Sandra Bauknecht and Courtesy of The Dolder Grand #doldermoments
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