Merry Christmas from Santa Claus Village, Lapland


Marek perhaps made the mistake of tying a female Alaskan Malamite  along with two males of the  species to the sledge. He tied her behind them but it was not long before  they caught her scent.  This distracted them and they would sniff the air , the path, and turn around intermittently breaking the ride from time to time. Marek  had to shout `go' more than once.  But the scent of the female was clearly too overpowering. In the  pine and birch forest  Mareks `go' echoed  back along with the excited yelps of the dogs.  But despite the frequent interruptions in which the dogs performed their mating rituals in front of me , I was at least happy that unlike on a Reindeer sledge I could at least see where the dogs were dragging me. (sanjay austa austa)

Huskies pulling a sledge, The Arctic

If you have spent the better part of your childhood singing hosannas in a church, Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Lapland will only remind you of those regimented boarding school days when you stood  groggy-eyed in the pews every morning.

So when I learn that my Finland itinerary includes a visit to  Santa Claus Village,  I knew it will  be a throwback to school-day nostalgia. I am not too excited . Besides I feel a bit too overgrown to patronize a Christian legend.

But when I enter the Santa Clause Village I see more frolicking adults than children. I realize it is perfectly normal here for the grownups to behave like excited teenyboppers.  Most of the adult exultations are about   crossing the  Arctic Circle that runs right across the Santa Claus  Village. The Arctic Circle is not really an imaginary line here.  It is marked  on the ground prominently  and at night a lazer beam tells you  exactly what side of the 66 latitude you stand. There are also big  lampposts erected at regular intervals on the Arctic Circle  to demarcate it.    Tourists head here and photograph themselves jumping across it to mark their Arctic tryst.

There is a long queue to meet this jolly old man from the Arctic. The only other person in the room with him is a photographer who shoots your picture with him and you get it instantly at the reception downstairs. (sanjay austa austa)

The 'official' Santa Clause at Santa Clause Village, Lapland

Most of the tourists come to do just that and  Finland tourism has lots of indulgences for them in the village. There are a plethora of souvenir shops  and you can take home anything from reindeer skin to Arctic bric- a-brac. There are also coffee-shops and bars. Christmas carols play around the clock from invisible speakers. But the main attraction of the village is perhaps the Post Office.

Its called the Santa Claus Post office and is like no other post-office in the world. It is open on all days and during Christmas it has to hire extra hands to deal with all the mail which still comes the old-fashioned way – i.e. via cards and letters.  It is no ordinary mail either. Its more of a snail- mail spam which comes in bag-loads in the name of just one man-  the resident arctic dweller – Santa.  But  Santa’s efficacious elves are there to take care of the letters for him. They sort all the letters by the country and the letters are stored for posterity. A pretty Finnish girl dressed up as an elve complete with her red tunic and skirt and a conical red hat, shows us a five meter long letter written by a small boy in Sweden. There were loads of letters from India too but its England that leads in the letter-writting department.

The elves gently goad you to send a letter to your loved ones from the post office. Doing so your letter bears a special Santa Claus village stamp. I send one letter (for a small price of course) to my skeptical nephew to reinforce the Santa myth    in him.

Santa Claus amusement park  has indeed been set up for this express purpose. Parents come with children from all over the world to get a date with the ‘real’  Santa of the North Pole .

Santa Clause receives thousands of letters each year from children across the world. This special Post Office looks after his correspondence. Most of the letters come from UK. (sanjay austa austa)

The Santa Clause office receives thousands of letters each year from children across the world.

There is a Santa Claus office where you can register yourself to meet the gregarious old man.   There are three Santa’s who take turns to sit in a wooden  cabin meeting an endless stream visitors.  Feeling somewhat out of place I  stand in a long queue of children waiting my turn. The Santa Claus office is built like the inside of a giant clock with some moveable parts that are designed to creek and groan.  This clock-house with its bearded timekeeper perhaps signifies the  surreal time-space that exists North of this village where the  phenomenon of the midnight sun (in summers) and no sun at all in winters greets you.

When our turn comes a handsome boy dressed as an elf ushers us in. He also doubles up as Santa Claus’s official photographer and he quickly gets behind a cabin from where he photographs us exchanging greetings with Santa.  The `Official Santa’ is very much the Santa of my imagination. Long white undulating beard. Rose tinted rotund cheeks. And the all too familiar corpulent frame. He greets us a predictable Namastay when we tell him  we are from India. He takes turns greeting us all and asks the girls in our group if they have been good-girls in a manner he would assume for  any naughty children visiting him. The girls play along with one of them insisting on getting a photograph   sitting on his lap.

No sooner you are out of the Santa Claus cabin you are handed a framed photograph of you with Santa- again for a small price.

Beside the thrill of meeting Santa, there are not too many amusements for the children apart from sledging on the artificial snow-slopes at the village.  However  most of the merchandise at the shops from Christmas books to clothes is angled at the children.  But if you are an adult and a boarding school product like me you cannot but ignore that tug of nostalgia for the church ceremonies back in  your school in the mornings.

I missed the spectacle of the Northern Lights but even in the bleak, cloudy weather there were eerie hues towards the evening. (sanjay austa austa)

Arctic moon rising, Lapland

The Reindeers are strong reliable and mild  arctic animals who wait for a tug from you on the reign before they move anywhere. But  my reindeer seemed to have a mind of his own or perhaps he could sniff out nervous tourists. He choose to ignore any tugging on the reign and dragged my sledge of his own volition and speed.   From the sledge all you can see is the narrow hump of the Reindeer and his flat hoofs as they spring back and forth. I wondered how anyone riding the sledge could possibly  see where they were going.   But my reindeer had gone down this path a lot many times before and after cutting a large swathe in the  pine woods we were soon  back at the reindeer farm. (sanjay austa austa)

Reindeer Sledge Ride, Lapland

But our sledge dogs today were thankfully the less bad-tempered  Alaskan Malamites. They were overfriendly and clearly raring to take us on a ride.  Marek said the dogs loved long excursions but were put off if they knew the ride was short. That made me feel less guilty having these lovely dogs put on a leash for me and have them drag me across the Arctic forest.  They looked huge but weighed only 35 kilos.  When I attempted to pet one of them my hand sank in the furry coat.  The dogs were all hair and  fur and that's what kept them going in the sub zero Arctic winter. (sanjay austa austa)

The Husky Keeper and the Ledges, Finland.

White Reindeers are rare in Finland but are just the variation of their brown cousins. The Antlers of this one have been shorn off to prevent any injury during the mating season. Santa Claus   legend has it that he rode on a six- white reindeer sledge. (sanjay austa austa)

A rare white reindeer at a reindeer farm, Lapland.

11 Responses to “Merry Christmas from Santa Claus Village, Lapland”

  1. Vithika says:

    Your work is Wonderfull…again Loved those pictures and Info.
    Thanks for these Extra Knowledge 😉

  2. world clock says:

    Merry Christmas from Santa Claus Village, Lapland | Sanjay Austa – just great!

  3. selva says:

    Very nice designs, your work is great!!!

  4. selva says:


  5. farah khan says:

    Merry Christmas!!Mr.Sanjay

  6. farah khan says:

    Merry Christmas!!Mr.Sanjay.its gud to know about Lapland Village,

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