[image: Ric Rac And Buttons]


It started out as a joke.

'Honey, can you believe people in England go to Lapland to visit Santa for the same price as going to the Caribbean in December?' Sounded ridiculous (plus I'm allergic to the cold). But instead I received a 'We should look into doing that' from my husband (!). Um, really? Our oldest is almost 10 years old, so it was now or never. 

So before I knew it, we had tickets in hand to go to Finland ON THE DARKEST DAY OF THE YEAR to visit Santa and his crew.

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I love sneaky surprises, so we kept it a secret from the kids. Unexpectedly I got all misty-eyed from watching 'The Polar Express' which led me to spill the beans that we were going to visit Santa in 2 days.

In those 2 days, a lot happened. England received another snow storm that closed the major airports. My son got a sinus infection. My daughter slept all day with a high fever. Suddenly, I was actually praying that we would go to the North Pole (!).

My daughter also complained of nausea. So thanks to the good advice from my friend Miss S, I had a whole bunch of Ziplock Bags in my carry-on 'just in case' we got to see breakfast a second time. Turned out Miss S had a few Ziplocks tucked away for her son too on her travels.

Although I felt guilty that we would be spreading a virus, not just Christmas cheer, to our airplane mates, it didn't matter because it turned out everyone had a virus to share too. A flying petri dish. I'm not sure there was a healthy child on that flight. How many moms had Ziplock Bags stuffed in their carry-ons too?

Anyhoo, regardless of security breaches, the flight attendants invited all children to the front of the plane to sing carols into their intercom phone. Toy Story 3 played on the screens. We were off to the North Pole in search of Santa for the next three days!


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Okay, not the actual North Magnetic Pole - a moving target due to the changes in the magnetic forces in the earth's core. It is found in the Arctic Ocean, amid floating sea ice (according to Wikipedia).

For this reason, it is a little known fact that Santa has set up shop in Lapland, Finland above the Arctic Circle. Lapland is a northern region that includes Norway, Sweden, and Finland. More reindeer live in Lapland than people.

I'm not going sugar-coat it. It was COLD (-25C / -13F) and it was white. Even the tree trunks were caked with snow.  The Finnish flag pretty much sums it up:


Flag of Finland   [source]


Just snow and sky, like the colors of the flag. I just love flags, and now you won't forget theirs :)

The sun never reached the horizon, so daylight was called 'grey light'. 10:00am sunrise; sunset at 2:30p. The photo below could be a sunrise or sunset - it is hard to remember when they were just a few hours apart!


View From Bus - Truly A Winter Wonderland


The air was so dry, I was gasping for water; the snow was too dry to make a snowman.

All the forests were remarkably dense with trees. The photo below is from our walk in the woods at 3:30p!


Candles In The Snow Light A Forest Path


We were on the lookout for the Northern Lights, but unfortunately we didn't have a clear night.

To prepare for our time in the elements, we were outfitted in special snow suits. I wore a ski parka and more layers underneath the puffy leisure suit. One of the elves nicknamed me 'Miss America'; you can see why ;) I was an American hottie in this get-up!


Me, Bundled

Our Cabin

Sign of Wildlife

I've eaten for many reasons in my life - hunger, comfort, fuel. But never have I eaten just to get warm on the inside. I don't remember what I ate during our trip, but I ate a lot. Because I was very cold.

The purpose of our trip was to see Santa Claus. Our tour guide kept us very busy with lots of activities: sledding, reindeer and horse sleigh rides, snowshoeing, dog sledding, and snowmobiling.

Oh how the husky dogs made us laugh! They barked and howled with such excitement while they waited to pull our sled. Like a child, they were antsy and could hardly stand the wait! And once they started pulling the sled they were focused and quiet.  I felt bad when the ride was over, knowing they wanted to go again and again :) Nothing like a working dog with drive and purpose.

During our activities, we met delightful elves who gave suggestions on where we might find Father Christmas.


Reindeer Sleigh


The reindeer were smaller than I imagined they would be. Their backs probably weren't even chest-high to me.


Snowmobiling

We had outside activities all day. 
Warm fire and hot berry juice at every stop.

Warming Tipi

We visited the Toy Workshop, the Elves' House, and the Post Office. Below are the post boxes that were full of letters to Santa from around the world delivered by reindeer. So cute and clever!

Incoming: Letters For Santa From Each Continent

Santa reading my children's letters
After a drive and snowmobile ride, we finally found Santa's house the last hour of our tour. He had a magnificant view of Lapland from his home (we were sworn to secrecy on his location, so no photos). 

We saw some of our favorite elves again, played games, and met Mrs Claus. She said she knew we were American when the kids told her they leave cookies for Santa every Eve (the English leave mincemeat pies). 

After our chat with lovely Mrs. C, she took the four of us behind a moving bookcase(!) to a secret staircase(!) which led us to Santa. We were thrilled, and quite frankly, in awe.

When the four of us entered his room, Santa immediately greeted my kids by name. He held up the actual letters they sent weeks ago (the kids' eyes so wide!) and gave them an early present from their list! Santa Claus was the gentle soul you would expect him to be. 

The kids went to bed exhausted with smiles on their faces. We had an unforgettable, magical trip to Lapland.

It felt like an old friend stopped by on Christmas Eve Night. And he had.

Honey, can you believe people go to the Caribbean for Christmas, when they could visit Santa?

May the Christmas spirit be with you all year long,

XO Laura
 
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