Of the numerous Santa Claus villages, castles, workshops and the like that dot the northern countries of the western world, the Santa Claus Village of Rovaniemi, Finland is the reigning champion. Literally straddling the invisible line of the Arctic Circle, the city of Rovaniemi is out of the way, but the pine-forested, often snow-covered landscape is the ideal setting for the home of the jolly old elf, and as close to the North Pole that most people will ever get. Certainly many good little children in Europe think that Rovaniemi is an excellent substitute; the Santa Claus Village post office is among the most popular addresses for letters to Santa Claus, especially from eager young supplicants in Western Europe.
The tradition of Santa Claus in Rovaniemi dates back at least to the early part of the 20th century, when it was told to Finnish children that that Santa resided in Lapland, home to his famous herd of reindeer. The Santa Claus Village, however, was not founded until 1985, and has been growing ever since. It consists of a number of vital Santa Claus-related buildings lining a picturesque square, all snugly ensconced within a lush forest of evergreen trees. Many of the buildings and trees are draped in lights and ornaments which are especially magical when twinkling amidst a fresh layer of new-fallen snow.
The main sites of the Santa Claus Village are the Santa Claus Office, where Santa makes daily appearances throughout the year; and the Santa Claus Post Office, which receives hundreds of thousands of Santa letters from around the world every Christmas season. There is also a Christmas House with museum-type exhibits on the holiday and its celebration in Finland. There is also the Santa Park, where visitors can see Santa’s elves at work; a reindeer Park with herds of real reindeer; and Ice World, a fantasyland carved from ice. The final touch: a line running right through the middle of the village which marks the location of the Arctic Circle.
The Santa Claus Village is located on the outskirts of Rovaniemi, more than four hundred miles north of Helsinki. However, despite its out-of-the-way location, Rovaniemi is a sizeable city with a well-organized tourism industry that makes visting easier than would seem at first glance. Certainly tens of thousands of visitors make the trek every year. The Santa Claus Village is open January-May and September-November, 10:00am-5:00pm; June and August 9:00am-6:00pm; and July and December 9:00am-7:00pm (shorter hours on Christmas and New Year). There are individual charges for a number of the attractions at the Santa Claus Village, but a personal meeting with Santa is free for everyone. Web: www.santaclausvillage.info (official website of the Santa Claus Village)