Rovaniemi, Finland: Home of Santa Claus

Written by Cate Tynjala

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Santa with his reindeer in Rovaniemi

If my last name is any indication, I am Finnish. My father is 100% Finn, and ever since my sister and I were young we knew to take pride in our Finnish heritage. Sisu, the Finnish word for stoic determination, bravery, resilience, and hardiness was written on coasters, magnets, and mugs and displayed around the house. In honor of our heritage, my sister boldly decided to study Finnish at the University of Minnesota. Listed as the fifth hardest language to learn, anything short of passion for the language and all of its nuances and idiosyncrasies makes Finnish a taxing study.     


Husky sled in Finnish Lapland

Finland is home to a unique blend of Scandinavian and Nordic cultural practices. Stereotypically stoic and reserved, there is a phrase that says “An introverted Finn looks at his shoes when talking to you; an extroverted Finn looks at your shoes.” Despite this tendency toward being quiet and coy, when it comes to the holidays, Finns reveal their inner emotional strength in their dedication to elaborate Christmas celebrations.

Finland is home to Santa Claus’s village. Joulupukki (the Finnish name for Santa Claus) lives in a Finnish town near the Arctic Circle that goes by the name of Rovaniemi. Here, people can stay, eat, and even meet Santa himself. His reindeer roam freely, and visitors can tour the Christmas House, which contains a Christmas-themed, two-part exhibit. Part of the exhibit is focused on Finnish Christmas, Christmas traditions, and Lapland’s Santa Claus. The other section of the exhibit explores Christmas traditions around the globe.


Santa Claus Village Post Office

Santa stays in his home in Finnish Lapland all year round so that he can meet and talk with those who visit his idyllic village. He lives there with Mrs. Claus, who, in an exclusive interview with Heli Karjalainen and Annikki Marjala, revealed that Santa travels via sleds drawn by reindeer, dogs, car, aeroplane, snowmobile, and helicopter. She also revealed that amongst the thousands of Christmas wish lists Santa receives, he is sometimes sent Christmas cards. During the holiday season, Santa receives upward of 30,000 packages and letters a day.


Northern Lights over Lake Inari in Finland

Finns consider Santa to be the ambassador of the holiday season. Korvatunturi, the mountain on which Santa has built his luxurious home, allows Santa to hear the Christmas wishes from all of the children in the world. Also, the reindeer that Santa uses are all about 100 kg males, chosen carefully to ensure that they can carry Santa and his presents across long distances. There are even reindeer races during the beginning of April. Around 200 reindeer are brought to Lake Inari in Lapland, where they can compete in any of three reindeer races.

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Reindeer races in Lapland

With the holiday season in full swing, Santa and his elves are busy at work in his village in Finland, and reindeer owners are training their reindeer to compete in the annual races. In Finland, the holidays are not just a time to be grateful and enjoy quality time with family. Rather, they are a time to display their deep national pride and revel in the unique Finnish landscape and all of the wonders it provides.