Setting out north of Rovaniemi, we had a short drive to Santa Village, which is what most tourists come to Rovaniemi to see. This tourist attraction is located right on the Arctic Circle, adding to the feeling that one has arrived at the North Pole. It is the most popular trip from England during December and January when there are as many as 4,000 visitors a day for up to six weeks. Visitors who fly in for a day can see Santa, shop, ride snow mobiles, mush with dog sleds, cross country ski, see the Aurora Borealis, all in one day (one long night) and fly back. In summer it is a very popular tourist center for visitors from everywhere, but we were between seasons and found no crowds. Santa Village is open daily year round with Santa in residence by his big Christmas tree, but Rudolph’s toy workshop is open only on weekends between tourist seasons. You can find reindeer grazing and resting by the barns, which contain Santa’s red and white sleighs. And you can send letters which Santa signs, posted at the Arctic Circle. The shops have lovely gifts and a large assortment of work done by the Sami people, who a large part of the rest of the world incorrectly refer to as Lapi people, that live in this Lapland province of Finland.
We were very disappointed, although not surprised, to verify that we could not see any of the Sami people in traditional costume or herding reindeer. To see that we would have to travel another 220 km farther north and still only be lucky to see some if they were having a special family ceremony or happened to be following the reindeer cross country,,,,a rare event nowadays. These people specialize in wood and leather crafts and make beautiful knifes with handles of polished birch and reindeer horn.
Having our picture taken with Santa and one with us in an original Lapland sleigh were a must as well as standing on the official Arctic Circle stones for a photo to verify to friends and family that we had actually reached such latitude on the globe. We later learned that the real Arctic Circle changes latitude each year with a variation up to 100 meters, depending on the sun’s position. The Circle is the topmost place on earth where the sunlight is constant for 24 hours and absent for 24 hours one day a year. We drove an extra kilometer just to be sure we had actually crossed the real Artic Circle this year!
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