Stay home for Christmas or take the children to see Father Christmas inside the Arctic Circle? Like lots of other families with young children at this time of year that was the choice I had to make several years ago and I am happy to report I made the correct decision.
I decided to visit Rovaniemi the capital of the Finnish Province of Lapland which is considered the official home town of Santa Claus and is home to the Santa Claus Village and Santa Park just inside the Arctic Circle.
Because of its extreme northerly location and frequent overcast skies the area has very low levels of sunshine in the winter months. December averages just under six minutes of sunshine a day which means it never really got light. It appeared to be dusk all day long with a permanent period of partial darkness between day and night. Heavy snow falls created a picturesque landscape of snow covered forests and lakes putting me and my family in the perfect frame of mind for Christmas.
The exact location of Father Christmas`s home is a secret known to a chosen few but we travelled most of the morning on snowmobiles through the snow covered forests to meet up with real Elves who led us along candle lined paths to his welcoming warm log cabin for a personal audience with the great man himself.
All those humbug doubters who may have questioned the reality of a Father Christmas will be charmed and enthralled by this magical moment in such an enchanting and captivating environment. Children and adults alike cannot fail be delighted and thrilled to be visiting Santa Claus at this special time of year.
The temperature during the week varied from -2 to -16 degrees C but the cold was not a problem as our tour company had provided thermal jackets, gloves, hats, scarves and socks so we were well equipped for the extreme temperatures.
Besides having a lot of fun steering the snowmobiles through the snow covered forests we were also taken on a husky sledge ride and were pulled across a frozen lake by reindeer. We also found the time to go tobogganing a couple of times which was absolutely exhilarating.
The hotel was in the centre of Rovaniemi so we were able to go for a walk to the shops and sample some of the local street food, horse chestnuts and fried whitebait being the most popular. There was a pool in the Hotel but the water was too cold for me so I decided to curl up in front of one of the large warm log fires and drink some warm strong coffee while the kids splashed about in the freezing pool. One of the simple pleasures was walking around in the deep snow which in some parts was over 50 cm deep.
Rovanemi is also an excellent location from which to experience the magic of the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. The Auroras can be seen up to two hundred times a year when the sky is clear around the city of Rovaniemi from mid-August until mid-April. Unfortunately on this occasion we were not lucky enough to see the light show caused by electrically charged particles from the sun colliding with each other upon entering the earth’s atmosphere but we have promised ourselves we will return to witness this spectacular natural show at another time.
On the final day of our pre-Christmas break we decided to go skiing which was only five minutes away from the Hotel by taxi. The children and I were able to book a lesson as I hadn`t skied for over eighteen years and the children were complete beginners. The instructor was brilliant very patient and explained everything very simply so that after almost two hours we had gone from the nursery slop to a blue run at the top of a t-bar lift.
I was a little sceptical when considering this short break with my wife and two young children as being another commercial aspect of the yuletide season but we all had a tremendous time setting us up perfectly for the hectic Christmas celebrations on our return. I would recommend a Pre- Christmas visit to Rovanemi for all children, young and old alike!
Direct flying times from the United Kingdom is three hours ten minutes with several packages available but make sure you book up in plenty of time as Christmas packages are very popular and sell out quickly.