Reporting from Helsinki
17.07.2015 - 19.07.2015 16 °C
'Tis the season to be jolly - as a relocated Australian, I certainly think that the summer season is a perfectly sensible time to be celebrating Christmas, and so as we were in Rovaniemi, which is the official hometown of Santa Claus, THE Santa Claus, the TRUE Santa Claus, we thought we better go and say hi!
It was a bit weird hearing Christmas Carols piped through the music system and seeing Christmas paraphernalia everywhere, but the Christmas decorations don't look tired or like they've just been left up since Christmas, so a lot of attention is obviously given to their maintenance. The shops are glistening, just like the 6 weeks before Christmas in Melbourne or London...
It is also village made for bus loads of tourists and winter, and bus loads of tourists would come, and visit Santa and the shops and then vanish. We were there for a few hours and I suppose because it is not winter, and it is in a good location for a coffee and shop stop, that's what they did... By being made for winter, I mean that all the entries into buildings have grates - to stamp or scrape snow off shoes, double sets of doors - to keep the heat in, and there are loads of hooks and rails - to hang up winter coats.
Santa Claus Village is also right on the arctic circle, but compared to the other spot where we stopped on the 66 degree north latitude, was less of an ordeal to get to it! So no cairns or congratulatory awards!
There were loads of shops including Marimekko and iitalia outlets, and a huge number of shops selling Christmas trinkets, and Lapland or Finland souvenirs. Some stores had specialty items, ranging from handknits, or leather goods, or reindeer antler everything, or silver, but most had mass produced souvenir type objects. Not that these weren't cute to look at too, and of course I didn't leave empty handed!!
We also saw some reindeers, and were able to feed them and pat them. They were much smaller than I expected. The reindeer handler answered Didi's question about flying, with a very clear explanation - they must be harnessed to the sleigh, and the sleigh helps them fly, and Santa has to be there too! Didi and Jie Jie were listening very carefully and appeared to think that the answer was well supported!
There is also a post office, which does issue special stamps and has a special postmark. I particularly loved in the post office, the huge tables with pots of pens at which you can sit and write cards. (Please note - No Christmas in July cards coming! Sorry!) Also the mail that Santa has already received in 2015 has been read and is filed by country of origin here too.
The highlight for sure though was visiting Santa - and we saw some top secret things, like how he has engineered a way to slow down the earth's rotation on Christmas Eve to ensure he can visit everyone! The kids were pretty stoked to meet him, and especially to receive a stuffed husky dog each. The magic of Christmas is certainly alive in Rovaniemi!!