Sunday, 15 November 2009

Meeting Santa in the Land of the Midnight Sun

Christmas is well on its way, a sure sign being that I walked into my local supermarket to see glittery decorations and a life size model of Santa, as well as hearing jingly music. Some love it, and some hate it. But if you are one of the people that just can’t get enough of Christmas, then you may consider a trip to see Santa.

It’s quite funny that the original Saint Nicholas was from Myra in Turkey, but in the nineteenth century he suddenly morphed into the fat red-coated gentleman who lives in the north, and it seems that now Lapland is thought to be his traditional home. It could have something to do with the wonderfully snowy environment of the north that people so associate with Christmas.

If you want to see Santa Claus Village, this is just outside the town of Rovaniemi which has its own airport. Santa Claus Village at Rovaniemi is actually open all year round, and here you can meet Santa and his elves. Rovaniemi Post Office receives letters to Santa from children all across the globe, and they even send out replies on colourful, Christmassy notepaper!

Rovaniemi is not just about Santa though, it is also good for shopping with designer stores stocking various top Finnish brands such as Marimekko and Arabia. There are also Santa outlets of course.

But if you feel like a more rural and slightly less commercialised environment, then other airports to head for are Ivalo, Kittila and Kuusamo.

And, in case you are wondering, what or where exactly is Lapland? It is home to the Sami people who were originally a nomadic group roaming the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. They lived in tents that were similar to native American tepees, and by the 16th century their economy was largely based on agriculture and reindeer. Obviously today the Sami live in modern houses.

They refer to their land as Sapmi, and this northern area has beautiful fjords, lakes and wilderness. The winters are dark with little sunlight but what little light there is gets reflected from the bright, white snow, and there is also a chance of seeing the aurora borealis. In the summer the place becomes the Land of the Midnight Sun with wonderfully light nights.

The area offers some great opportunities for enjoying winter sports and the great outdoors, and makes a great place to visit summer and winter, Santa or no Santa.

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