Reindeers, husky sleigh rides, ice sculptures and glowing Christmas trees add up to the magic of Santa Claus Village (located north of Rovaniemi), the place where Christmas feels most at home. Traveling to Rovaniemi, Lapland in Finland for Christmas is more rewarding when equipped with some general information regarding the country’s traditions.
Christmas in Finland (as all over Scandinavia) is mostly about taking things slowly and enjoying the company of loved family members. The three holy days of Christmas- Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day- are best spent at home. Fishermen get their boats into the harbor by December 21st, St. Thomas’ Day, to hug their kids and take in the festive atmosphere.
Driven by enthusiasm, children wake up early on Christmas Eve (the most eventful of the three days), have their traditional warm rice pudding and plum fruit juice and then go off to get the Christmas tree with one of the members of the family.
In the city of Turky (southern Findland), after the Cathedral Bell strikes twelve, the mayor reads the Declaration of Christmas Peace, which is broadcast on TV and radio. It is an inspiring text, you will probably enjoy it:
The declaration of Christmas Peace: “Tomorrow, God willing, is the graceful celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior; and thus is declared a peaceful Christmas time to all, by advising devotion and to behave otherwise quietly and peacefully, because he who breaks this peace and violates the peace of Christmas by any illegal or improper behavior shall under aggravating circumstances be guilty and punished according to what the law and statutes prescribe for each and every offense separately”.
A light Christmas Eve lunch is usually followed by a trip to the sauna. Christmas Eve in Finland is also time for remembrance, as the cemeteries are filled with candles.
After decorating the spruce tree, a traditional dinner is served in the evening, which commonly includes macaroni, rutabaga, carrot and potato, cooked turkey and ham, ginger mesquites and chocolate. The traditional holiday drink is glogg (mulled wine).
And guess what: animals have their own Christmas in Finland, as farmers hang a sheaf of wheat on a tree to be eaten and pecked at by the birds.
A sudden knock in the door, followed by a much awaited “Are there any good children in the house?” and the kids rush to see Santa. They sing Joulupukki Laula or Peteir Punakuono (Rudolph) or other such songs to him and receive their presents.
The second Christmas day (the 25th of December) is usually very quiet, as families stay inside and usually take some time to relax and contemplate. The third is usually dedicated to family visits.
Now that we’ve gathered some basic insights into the Christmas traditions in Finland, let’s go deeper into one of the places most associated with this cheerful holiday: the Village of Santa Claus in Lapland.
Rovaniemi is not difficult to reach, despite its extreme northern location in Europe. This mall village is served by an airport!, which offers daily flights between Rovaniemi and Helsinki. Many traveling agencies also book charter flights from various cities across the world. A regular connection from Rovaniemi Airport to the city center (located at a distance of 10 kilometers) is also available.
The village of Santa Claus is located 8 km north of Rovaniemi (Bus number 8). It is unofficially referred to as “a tourist trap”, because this is a place where the children and the children-at-heart can spend, spend, spend on Christmas “specials” (a photo with Santa Claus, for example, costs $28). The “village” is a festive shopping area and going in and out of the shops can feel a bit uncomfortable (due to the major temperature differences). Most people traveling here say that husky sleigh rides are the best activity you can go for.
Highlights of Santa Claus village include the Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park, the Post Office (letters to Santa from all over the world are sent here), the Snowman world (lots of interesting ice sculptures) and Santapark, an underground amusement park. Visiting all these in a single day can be pretty tiring (you may consider coming here twice if your budget allows it), but many nostalgic travelers say it’s ‘a dream came true”.
Accommodation. You can sleep in Rovaniemi -Hostel Rudolph and UniHostel are good options for traveling on a budget.