The ultimate winter wonderland, perfect for Christmas fans of all ages, nothing beats a Yuletide spent in Lapland. With a guaranteed blanket of snow, cosy wood-panelled saunas and ice lantern decorations adding a warm glow, the home of Father Christmas is a wonderful and genuine festive experience. As well as enjoying the magic of Lapland as a visitor, Finland has many charming Christmas traditions.
The traditions of a Finnish Christmas
While it seems shops hang out their decorations and radio stations start playing festive songs earlier each year, Finland may beat them all with the Pikkujoulu-season of pre-Christmas parties starting at the beginning of November. Like many cultures, Finns use Christmas as a time to come together and enjoy the company of loved ones. The traditional celebratory meal, as with numerous European countries, is eaten on Christmas Eve – a feast of roast pork served alongside salmon, scalloped potatoes, carrot casseroles and mashed rutabaga swede. Sweet pastries, gingerbread and glasses of ‘glögi’ (mulled wine) are enjoyed before families visit the local cemetery to remember those who have passed throughout the year and light candles in their honour. No Finnish celebration would be complete without a sauna to cleanse body and soul. With Christmas Eve spent appreciating time with close relatives, Christmas Day is for visiting friends and more family before heading out to the bars and clubs which open on Boxing Day.
The Finnish Santa Claus
There are many legends of Santa Claus from all over the world with different traditions and quirky routines of delivering gifts to obedient children. The Finnish festive figure was originally called ‘Joulupukki’, which means ‘Christmas goat’ or ‘Yule goat’ and has over the years merged with the western Santa Claus. His home is in Korvatunturi while his business headquarters are in Rovaniemi where more than half a million letters from 198 countries are delivered to the Arctic Circle Post Office each year. When it comes to Christmas Eve and spreading the message of goodwill, rather than secretly shimmying down the chimney, the Finnish Santa Claus knocks on the front door to enter and exclaims “Onko täällä kilttejä lapsia?” (“are there any well-behaved children here?”) before handing out gifts.
A Lapland Christmas any time of year
A visit to Lapland is the perfect holiday choice for those who want to experience Christmas beyond December, with Santa Claus’ doors open all year. While December is probably considered the best, and the busiest, time of year to visit Lapland, its delights can be enjoyed any time – the main difference being the weather and the queues. Cross the Arctic Circle to arrive in Rovaniemi to enjoy a meeting with the man himself, explore the village, visit the official post office and soak up the wonderful festive atmosphere. Along with Santa Claus there is plenty to enjoy in Rovaniemi such as spending time with a reindeer herder, even driving a sleigh pulled by the animals, and admiring the abundance of Arctic wildlife in Rauna Zoo including elk, wolverines and arctic foxes.
Have you celebrated Christmas in Lapland? Share your experiences in the comment section below, or if this has inspired you to travel to Finland to soak up the magical atmosphere, check out our group tours.