Spending the Holidays In Lapland

Lapland has an irresistible romance that is a draw for visitors and Finns alike. And when planning your Lapland holidays for 2013, rest assured this is a great destination for the up coming holiday season. While you won’t see polar bears or rocky fjords, there is something intangible that makes it magical.

A house in the middle of... nothing!

Part of the spell it casts is in the awesome latitudes that are reached here. At Nuorgam, the northernmost point, we have passed Iceland and nearly all of Canada and Alaska.

It’s also linked inextricably with the midnight sun, the Sámi peoples, the northern lights, and the wandering reindeer. Lapland has awesome wildernesses and is the place in Finland to get active. Exploring the tundra, forests and fells is unforgettable. Whether you drive or trek, set aside time to get off the main roads. The sense of space, pure air and big skies is what is memorable here.

It’s important to pick your time in Lapland carefully. In the far north there’s no sun for fifty days of the year, and no night for seventy-odd days. There’s thick snow cover from mid-October to May. In June it’s very muddy, and in July insects can be hard to deal with! If you’re here to walk, August is great and in September the ruska (autumn) colours can be seen. The far northern part of Lapland is known as Sápmi, home of the Sámi people and their reindeer herds. The main Sámi communities are around Inari and Hetta. Rovaniemi is the most popular gateway to the north.

Finland, and particularly Lapland, has a strong claim to being the home of Santa Claus. This isn’t the North Pole, but Lapland has the reindeer, the winter climate, the mystique and these days it has Santa’s post office. But the historic St Nicholas, the real man behind the Santa myth, wouldn’t have known how a reindeer looks like and would have melted in a typical Santa suit, as he lived in temperate present-day Turkey.

The story of the real St Nicholas goes something like this: many centuries ago, a poor peasant, father of three daughters, did not have enough money for their wedding dowries. To ensure that at least two of the daughters would have money enough to attract husbands, the man decided that he would have to sell the youngest daughter into slavery. The soon-to-be-sainted Nicholas got word of the terrible situation, crept into the family’s house while they were sleeping and magically filled a sock with golden coins. The youngest daughter was saved, all three daughters were joyfully married and the whole family lived happily ever after. Since then Santa Claus has been filling socks with presents every Christmas.

In Finland, Uncle Markus, a legend of children’s radio in the middle years of the twentieth century, established the Finnish legend that a gift-giving Santa Claus lived in Korvatunturi Hill, right at the Russian border. Long before that, in pagan times, Finns had believed in an evil male goat spirit that demanded gifts on the shortest day of the year.

Photos by Ray Garcia via Flickr Creative Commons