With Christmas just a week away, Santa’s village is bustling with activity in Lapland, on the Arctic Circle.
“It’s a very busy time here at the Arctic Circle,” Elina, a Postal Elf in Santa’s Village, told Reuters. “We have a lot of visitors from around the world, who are here to see Santa Claus and send their Christmas wishes.”
Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Lapland, draws more than 500,000 annual visitors from around the world.
Since its establishment in 1985, Santa Claus has received 15 million letters from 198 countries.
“Santa Claus also receives a lot of letters every year, about half a million from around the world,” Elina said. “So, the elves are now busy sorting and opening the letters and reading people’s wishes.”
The merry postal elves are happy to serve customers all year round in their headquarters, which is a real post office operated by Posti, Finland’s national postal service.
Every letter mailed from this special post office gets a special Arctic Circle postmark not available anywhere else, making the letters sent to family and friends even more unique.
Another unique experience offered is crossing the Arctic Circle.
The circle of latitude that runs 66°33’45.9″ north of the Equator marks the southernmost latitude where the sun can stay continuously above or below the horizon for 24 hours. These phenomena are known as the Midnight Sun in the summer and the Polar Night (“Kaamos”) in the winter.
The Arctic Circle runs through Santa Claus Village, located eight kilometers north of the center of the city, where it is clearly marked. It’s a popular place to cross the Arctic Circle, and you can even get a certificate marking the occasion.
You can also visit Santa’s four-legged friends, the reindeer. Although you might not meet Rudolph in person, there are reindeer sleigh-rides amid the wintery wonderland to enjoy.
“It’s, it’s phenomenal to be perfectly honest,” Sean, a visitor from England, told Reuters. “Santa, the real Santa, it’s the real thing. The snow is really, really good, it’s very cold, but well worth it.”
In 2010, Rovaniemi received the status of the Official Hometown of Santa Claus.
However, Rovaniemi was almost destroyed in World War II.
In 1950, Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, came to visit Rovaniemi to witness the rebuilding process.
She wanted to visit the Arctic Circle, and Rovaniemi officials rushed to build a cabin 5 miles (8 kilometers) north of the city. That cabin marked the birthplace of Santa Claus Village and till this day still stands next to Santa Claus Main Post Office.
“It’s well worth the visit,” Sean said. “Even for it, stuff that we haven’t got in our country, you weren’t going to get it unless you come and visit here. It’s fantastic”
And for the most important figure, Santa himself.
Sitting in his chair, reading his letters, he said the messages are quite positive.
“Quite good wishes I think, so and nice messages,” he told Reuters. “What could be my messages this year? I think I know, because children are writing so many letters to me and something good is happening in the world.”
What could these good things be?
“Children are wishing, for example, health and happiness for their parents and families and also that I would remember all the people around the world,” he said.
And finally, for his message:
“But as you know, I appreciate such values as kindness, joy, friendship, and love to the nature,” he said. “Our friend nature has been in trouble for a while now and now we all can give one gift together, we can help the nature.”
“I wish you all Merry Christmas!”
From The Epoch Times