Monday, November 28, 2011

Santa sightseeing: Visiting that Christmas guy in Finland

 Me and my mate Santa Claus go back a long way. I certainly remember being very excited about his visits as a child, even though my parents never got that elaborate with reindeer footprints or other "evidence" of his visit, beyond the fact that the beer we left out for Santa had been drunk (although the carrots for the reindeer were not always eaten). I'd like to think everyone has enough of the childhood magic left in them to enjoy the idea of visiting Santa, and I certainly did when I spent a cold, snowy Christmas in Finnish Lapland.

Santa - the real one, according to the brochures, although I've already heard from my Canadian friend Charlotte that the real Santa lives, in fact, in Canada - lives right on the Arctic Circle, a short drive north of the town of Rovaniemi, Finland. He runs a small village there, with a restaurant and some shops and of course, Santa's offices.

The official office of Santa Claus, Finland
I lined up early one morning (it was still dark - but at that time of year, the sun doesn't put in a lazy appearance until almost midday!) to visit Santa Claus, and I was both nervous and a little bit thrilled. I should note, I had no children at the time, but I was far from the only childless person waiting to see the ol' bearded fellow. His helpers (elves, perhaps?) showed me in when it was my turn, and Santa chatted about Australia (he knew his geography very well) and I asked him to grant me a short winter in Germany (he obliged). As I left, he chatted on in another language, and I watched for a while and saw him converse fluently in Finnish, English, Swedish and Italian. Most impressive.

Letters to Santa in Santa's office
A large part of his office area was taken up by the Santa Claus post office. And look at all these letters! With various addresses (and often just "Santa Claus, North Pole), thousands of letters had made their way up to this tiny outpost of Finnish Lapland and had then been lovingly sorted by country. So if you've ever sent a letter up to Santa, it probably really truly got there! (I thought this was a masterpiece of cooperative postal work across the globe!). I walked around outside a bit - it was fun to straddle the Arctic Circle, but it soon got cold - then hopped on a bus back to Rovaniemi. But every Christmas, I think of visiting Santa, and I hope one day to take my small boy off to Finland to do the same.

14 comments:

  1. Would be fun! What else would you recommend with a kid in Finland?

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  2. Need to head over to Finnish Lapland one of these days. Spend lots of time up in the Swedish side. Looks like fun!

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  3. @ Jenny - there were so many great winter outdoor activities and day trips to do when I was there and even on the snowmobile trips they had trailers for kids who were too young to sit on one - I did reindeer sleigh driving (perfect for Xmas), ice fishing, trips across the ice, snowshoe walking, lots of fun stuff that kids would also enjoy.

    @ Lola - it would be very interesting to hear how the two compare, so I do hope you get there one day!

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  4. That's for sure. I've heard they even reply to them!

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  5. Wow i want to write to Santa hehehe...Happy TT!

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  6. I recommend it! See what kind of answer you get!

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  7. Nice photos and experience of yours:)

    Visiting for TT! Hope you can visit mine too:)

    http://www.sweethomephilippines.com/2011/12/tuesday-travels-christmas-lights-cdo.html

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  8. wow! amazing! say hi to santa for me! ;)

    Late visit from
    http://rayainthailand.com/2011/11/26/elephant-rides-in-north-thailand/
    http://culturemedley.com/2011/11/28/kings-park-dusk/

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  9. awww looking adorable nest to Santa :-) am sure that million of kids want their wishes to come true by those letters. Thank you for sharing Finland Christmas style with us. Dropping some love for Tuesday Travels, hope that you can return the favor too.

    http://www.tropical7107islands.com/2011/12/our-christmas-lights-on-the-front-yard.html

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  10. afterall Santa is not for kids only, beautiful picture of you and Santa

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  11. Ha ha ha! This is a cool post! You see, I am one of the very few who never experienced the "realness" of Santa when I was young. Santa was never part of our Christmas holidays and that's what our daughter believes, too, right now. I'm sure it doesn't sound so magical to you, but it's okay. We still have great Christmas memories even without believing in Santa.

    You have a great tour, though. I should let my daughter read your post, for sure, she'll be amazed! She knows Santa is just a pretend, and yet, she is fascinated with anything that has to deal with Santa. :)

    Beautiful post, thanks for sharing!

    Visiting for TT as a host. Thanks for joining and I hope you can join in again next week!

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  12. Thanks Travelholic - and yes I'm sure you can still have great Christmas traditions without Santa! But visiting him was still heaps of fun. Thanks for hosting TT.

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