Santa’s sledge full of presents
I had a great visit to Santa Claus’ village in the recent past. But before narrating about the visit, let me first introduce Santa Claus to those who have not yet met him. It is said that the word Santa Claus has come from the Dutch language in which it means Saint Nicholas- Santa is the Dutch word for Saint and Claus for Nicholas. In Germany, he is called Weihnachtsmann, in England Father Christmas, and in France as Pere Noel. The story of Santa Claus is very simple.
On the night before Christmas, he visits the homes of all of the good boys and girls and leaves them presents under the tree and fills their stockings with candy and small toys. He had paid so may visits to me and brought presents for me when I was a child that I decided to return the visit and go to his village. The first step was to find his address. I found out that Santa’s secret getaway is in the East of Lapland, on the Korvatunturi Fell, on the border between Finland and Russia where he was first spotted in the 1920’s. A Globe showing the Arctic Circle
Subsequently, in the 1950’s Santa would often enjoy visiting the Arctic Circle near the town of Rovaniemi, in Finland, not only on Christmas but all throughout the year, to visit both children and child-like. He founded his own village there by 1985. This Village now mainly consists of three parts – the Office of the Santa, his Main post office and shops selling souvenirs. There is also a reindeer park nearby. Santa Claus comes to the village office every day of the year to listen to children’s wishes and to talk to people from all over the world. One has to pay a small fee to get the privilege of having a photo clicked with Santa. Since I was on a tight budget, I decided to forego this opportunity. Santa Claus Village
I read that during the Christmas time it is snow all around and very cold in his village. I decided to go during the summer months when the weather is pleasant. It was the month of June and this is the time when the midnight sun dazzles in the sky. Of course one has to go further north to experience that but the summer days at Santa’s village are very long and nights short.
With this information, I took the Finnair flight to Helsinki and from there an over night train to Roveniemi. The international airport of Rovaniemi, Santa Claus’ official airport, is situated only 2 km from Santa Claus’ Village. But since I had reached Roneniemi by train, I took a bus which took no time to cover the distance of 8 kms. Arctic Circle Line
Suddenly I found brightly coloured log houses with conical towers and an impressive gate. So I had reached the village of Santa Claus. This is where the highway crosses the Arctic Circle line. The Arctic Circle is the imaginary line on the surface of the Earth, which marks the northern latitude north of which the sun does not rise on the winter solstice or set on the summer solstice. Board of Santa Claus Main Post Office
Santa Claus’s main post office has a wide range of Christmas products. Merry elves sell stamps, postcards, writing pens, letters from Santa Claus and various kinds of Christmas souvenirs. Cards, letters and parcels sent from Santa Claus’ Main Post Office are franked with a genuine Arctic Circle special postmark. One can also leave one’s Christmas mail with the elves even during summer. They will send it on just when one wants – for Christmas, a birthday or any important date that one may choose. Inside Santa Claus Main Post Office
every day of the year and be served by merry elves in the post office in seven languages! Each year, Santa’s Workshop Village and the Main Post Office are visited by a staggering half a million people. Since the population of Finland is only 5.3 million, one can safely presume that these are mostly foreign tourists. When one sees this number in the background of visitors to Taj Mahal in India, then it’s magnitude becomes clearer. Taj gets about 2.5 million tourists a year out of which about half a million are foreign tourists. In other words, Santa Claus Village and the Taj Mahal get almost the same number of foreign tourists every year. Letters for Santa
There are also many shops and restaurants including a Swarovski shop inside the village selling a variety of items related to Santa Claus and the Lapland region. Those looking for fast food may note that there is no MacDonalds in this village.
You may be knowing that Santa’s raindeer’s name is Rudolph but may I end this article with a puzzling question for the readers- what is the name of Santa Claus’ wife?
(Text, photographs & copyright: K.J.S.Chatrath)
Some practical information:
Finland Embassy of Finland in India
E-3, Nyaya Marg
Delhi, Delhi 110021
Santa Claus Village website: http://www.santaclausvillage.info/eng/arctic_circle.htm
Finnish Railways website: http://www.vr.fi/eng/ (This website is in English, very simple yet exhaustive and extremely user friendly)
Airfare: Delhi-Helsinki-Delhi airfare is approx. Rs.49,000/- onwards (indicative)
Photos, text and copyright: K.J.S.Chatrath
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