As my 60th year comes to an end, I thought it was appropriate to share highlights from my special visit with Santa and his reindeers. In the fall, I wrote a blog post about packing for my trip. I really did go in search of the Northern Lights.
Yes, yes, yes, my “time to be merry” happened in October, thanks to the nice team at Collette Travel.* My holiday present came early with a complimentary trip to Lapland on their “Northern Lights of Finland Tour.” There’s much to share from this Explorations itinerary (more to come in 2019) but for now Santa is my main man, along with his elves and reindeers.
Where is Lapland?
Everyone I talk to about this trip asks the same question. Where is Lapland? So before I tell you about my visit with Santa, let’s start with a little geography lesson. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Lapland is a region of northern Europe largely within the Arctic Circle, stretching across northern Norway, Sweden, and Finland and into part of Russia. Lapland is the name for the region and is derived from Lapp, the name Scandinavians ascribed to the Sami people, who have inhabited the region for several thousand years.
How far did I travel to see Santa?
I traveled really far to see Santa. From Philadelphia to Helsinki and then 30 minutes north to the Ivalo Airport in the Finnish part of Lapland. From there our group took a bus to the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, where Santa lives part of the time. Thankfully, St. Nick was there during our stay as he has another home further north in Lapland’s capital city of Rovaniemi, on the edge of the Arctic Circle.
Ooh, ooh, ooh, if you decide to go to see Santa and his reindeers with Collette Travel, which is so worth it, you’ll get to stay in one of the comfy Kakslauttanen log chalets. I had one all to myself, but they can accommodate up to four people. Ooh, ooh, ooh, and you’ll stay in a glass igloo too, which is super cool. Don’t worry the igloo is heated!
An invitation to meet Santa
“We’re going to see Santa and his elves this morning,” said our tour leader Chad. The sun was shining bright and the snow was glistening. I dressed warm for my walk to Santa with hat, mittens, snow pants and down jacket — I was ready to brave the cold.
We gathered in the Kakslauttanen lodge to meet our elf. She pranced in with her red cap and hat and a basket of food for the reindeers. “My name is Aurora, after the Aurora Borealis” she said. “Follow me. Santa is going to be happy to see you today.”
It felt like we were in a storybook, Christmas movie, or fairytale. Off we went, step by step to Santa’s house.
Making magical wishes
We passed Santa’s workshop where Aurora instructed us to touch the gold frame. “Put both hands on gold and make a wish,” said Aurora. I did as she said, I love making wishes. Hope my wish comes true in 2019.
We hiked up the hill, over the river and through the woods to Santa’s house. “It’s a magical place here in Lapland,” said Aurora. “Let’s make another wish.” This time it was a magical wish. She gave us each a ball of snow and told us to make a wish and then throw the snow up in the air. I made a magical wish and sprinkled snow in the air. Hope my magical wish comes true in 2019.
Ho, ho, ho!
We arrived at Santa’s house. “Ho, ho, ho,” said Santa. He was just like I had imagined, tall, in a red suit, with a long white beard and big belly. He greeted us in English when we told him we were all from the United States. Then he welcomed us into his house to take pictures.
When it was my turn, I told Santa one of my reader’s wishes, including a wish for world peace, and my daughter A’s wish for a new boyfriend. I hope these wishes come true in 2019.
Come Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, Rudolf, and Olive
Feeling satisfied that Santa would make all our wishes come true, we left to visit and feed his reindeers. They were quite hungry animals, gobbling up the balls of food from our cupped hands. One of Santa’s reindeer became aggressive and grabbed the basket of food away from Aurora. They weren’t as friendly as they look in Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer. (Maybe they were angry about having to travel all over the world to deliver Christmas presents. I’m sure it’s a tough job for one night in December.)
On our way to Santa’s celebration house for a cup of warm berry juice and some ginger cookies, we passed reindeer huts. “These huts are for the reindeer during the summer,” said Aurora. “There are lots of mosquitoes around here in the summer from all the water from the melted snow. The reindeer’s urine has a strong odor that deters the mosquitoes. So they stay away from the huts.” (Sounds like it’s better to visit these animals in the winter.)
We also learned from Aurora that the Sami people (remember earlier I mentioned the Sami) own the reindeer. “Reindeer do not run free in Lapland,” said Aurora. (BTW, if you want to read more about the Sami and their reindeer check out this recent article from The New York Times: The Hinterlands Where Reindeer Are a Way of Life.)
May all your wishes come true
Indeed it had been a magical morning visiting Santa and his reindeer. I hope he brings world peace and a boyfriend for my daughter A. I hope he visits your house next week too and brings all the presents you wish for and honors your wishes for 2019. Be sure to leave cookies. And if you have any, some warm blueberry juice — it’s a Finnish tradition. What’s that, you can’t get to Finland to get the blueberry juice. It’s okay, just leave him some cranberry juice, I’m sure he’ll drink that too. Even a mug of warm milk will do.
A special year-end thank you to my readers
Thank you my dear readers for following my travels this year. From Florida to Quebec, Lyon to Paris, Berlin, Denmark, and Norway, to Helsinki and Lapland – it’s been a year of great adventures. There’s more to come. I’ll be sharing all the details from this trip and others that are already on my calendar for 2019. Did I see the Aurora Borealis in Lapland? Stay tuned to find out.
For now, may the rest of 2018 be merry. And may you have a happy and healthy new year!
*Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored post.” Collette Travel provided me with a complimentary press trip on their Northern Lights of Finland Tour. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.