I met Santa!
I bet everyone who’s ever celebrated Christmas in a Western-ish country as a child has always wanted to meet Santa Claus. Although our Christmas presents in Slovenia come from Grandpa Frost (Dedek Mraz) since the Yugoslavian times, Santa is still a very familiar figure and a childhood symbol that most of us probably associate with Coca Cola. Nonetheless, if you are not completely immune to the magic of Christmas, meeting Santa is a bucket list thing even as an adult.
Since the cunning Finns are very aware of that fact, they’ve built a Santa Claus village near Rovaniemi, complete with Santa’s workshop, post office, his reindeer, a husky park and of course the big man himself. The village is a paradise for kids and a very heartwarming experience for adults, if you let it.
Now, full disclosure, I am not much of a Christmas person myself as the holiday is becoming more consummeristic by the minute, with Christmas songs, lattes and sales assualting our senses earlier and earlier each year, but even my Grinch self surprisingly loved the visit to the Santa village. Even though the entire village is geared towards selling Christmas junk (there is really no other word for mass produced Christmas ornaments), they have somehow managed to portray the childhood magic of Christmas, so you feel like in one of those cheesy but happy Christmas movies.
The souvenir shops are tastefully tucked into the wooden Christmas-y houses, there are decorations everywhere and there’s a huge pine tree with all the flags of the world in the centre of the village. Santa’s workshop and post office have activities for kids, while you can meet Santa at the main house. On the way to Santa’s office you pass through a magical passageway featuring glimpses into reindeer nursery, elf school and other cute places. There is also a giant wooden time machine in the waiting area as an answer to all the children’s questions about how Santa manages to deliver presents to everyone in one night – with magic and science apparently, nice touch!
Impressions of the Santa Claus village
I was pleasantly surprised again, when I learned that meeting Santa Claus is in fact free, you only have to pay if you want to take the photos of your visit home and you are under no obligation to do so. Imagine having a child who wants to visit Santa but you can’t afford to, because Santa charges for it? That would have ruined the magic altogether and I was very glad they decided to offer it for free. They also do group photos and I thought both of it was a very nice gesture, as the photo prices are quite exorbitant (25 – 40 euros depending on the package), but of course I just had to buy my own photo and my couchsurfing host Elina even got me the Santa’s little helper sticker, which is usually reserved for kids.
Before meeting Santa the helpers welcome you to the village and ask you where you are from. You are then given a huge red shopping bag with the Santa Claus village picture on it to store your outdoor clothes in and you can keep it at the end of your visit (free souvenir, yay!). When it’s your turn you get to walk into the office and meet the man himself, who greets you in your own language. To my delight, he said Dober dan to me and asked me if I was from Ljubljana, so he really is all-knowning and we’d all better watch out and be nice or there will be no presents next year. 🙂 The entire meeting is recorded on camera and you can also buy the video if you want.
At the time of my visit I was couchsurfing with Elina and after I met Santa we decided to skip most of the other village activities as I had already seen the reindeer in Sweden, but we did go to the husky park, which had over a 100 very enthusiastic huskies, who apparently love to sit on top of their houses.
For 10 euros you can go inside just to see the dogs, instead of the full dog sledding experience, which I’d already done in Sweden. We tried to pet them all and most of them very more than happy to come up to the fence and enjoy a good scratch, but I did feel like their enclosures were too small, a bit dirty and not well maintained. However, the dogs looked healthy and energetic, so I really can’t judge from one brief visit. There were even some puppies, but they were too young to go out of the heated puppy house, so all we saw were some tiny snots pressed against the window and a very agitated mamma dog.
Bonus video of a derpy dog chewing his own house.