27 December 2010

Searching For Santa At The North Pole (Really!)

[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.

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!


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.


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


topchelseagirl said...

Sounds magical! They've obviously thought of everything to make it an unforgetable experience. Thanks for sharing it with us. x

Miss Sew & So said...

oh my gosh i was on the edge of my seat for that entire tale!!!
what an incredible memory for you al!!!
he had their actual letter- storybook stuff......

happy christmas to you and your family....
melissa xx

Banteringblonde said...

WOW you guys are seriously adventurous... Will is going to be very jealous when I tell him about this!

JoAnn said...

Amazing pictures and story Laura! The kids sat and listened and we LOVED reading all about it!! AWESOME!!

Emily said...

What a memorable adventure! Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos and your delightful story!

JANE said...

Ooh, squeal! I've been waiting for this post, Laura, and you delievered in spades. I'll have to show the pixies - their eyes will fall out of their heads. Just magical. And what lovely parents you are to treat the family to this. Take a bow! I hope your house is no longer as sickly. J x

Beth said...

LOVED reading this Laura. Those memories will live forever with your kids, how wonderful to give them such a magical Christmas adventure. You deserve the "cool Mom" badge - wear it with pride! x

Lou @ Little Green Shed said...

Hi thankyou for commenting on my blog! Lovely to meet you and visit your blog too. Wow!!! Oh my I feel a tiniest bit envious. I was saying to my hubby I would love to go to Lapland... it looks as magical as I imagine! Lou x

Nita {ModVintageLife} said...

Oh my gosh...how magical. What a wonderful memory you have created for your children. Amazing!

Philly Girl Abroad said...

Absolutely amazing story! Great pictures, too. I had no idea this kind of thing was possible. I will be posting this on my FB page and am interested to see the response.

Melissa K said...

Wow! I am in awe, how incredible it must have been - what an amazing adventure :)

Sarah Elizabeth said...

What a magical adventure! Your kids will remember that forever.

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Hope you and your family are having a great Christmas x x

Robynne's Nest said...

Well 'Miss America'..I think you looked gorgeous...although in that get up you could have been a 'Mr America'! Looks like fun, especially loved the photos of the reindeer. I wish that I could have done that trip when my kids were little...I suppose there is always the grandchildren...one day! Robx

Fiona said...

What a beautiful adventure Laura.
One your children will never forget!
Enjoy the remainder of the season.

Raine and Sage said...

Wow Laura! I'm awarding you 'best read' for the Christmas period 2010. This is such a fantastic adventure you've shared. I could almost feel how cold you were, and your description was music to the senses. Just magic! What an incredibly special thing to do as a family with the kids at that age.
PS - Thanks for the ziplock bag tip. Genius!!

Happy Homemaker UK | Laura said...

Thank you, Sonia ;) It took 3 days to write, but I'm so glad it is written down to reread in the future :) XOL

Kolein said...

This is SO awesome and exciting!! I felt like a kid reading it with joy. I have a smile a mile wide on my face! I'm glad you can't see me. I think I probably looked like a dork!

This is the greatest! I'm sharing it with my sons ages 10 and 7!

Merry Merry. Happy Happy! visiting from FJI SNS!


Polly @ Make Mine Beautiful said...

Oh my gosh, that is so magical for anyone of any age. I can only imagine how excited your kids were! It must've been absolutely beautiful. Your children will remember this for the rest of their lives. I highly suspect one day they will telling this story to their own grandchilren. How wonderful that they were able to experience something so unique and truly special in their young life.

Have a very happy new year.

Privet and Holly said...

{Sound of jaw hitting
the ground....!} WOW!
WHAT an adventure...so
very magical and I loved
sharing it with you {minus
the petri dish, of course}!
Thanks for taking us along
for the ride of a lifetime.
xx Suzanne

Jessica {lovely jubbly london} said...

I don't have any kids yet but I really really want to go to Lapland! This looks magical!

Anonymous said...

LOVE this adventure. I had no idea . . .
Not quite the same experience as north park mall.
luck you!
xo julie

Tezzie said...

Awesome! I'm so glad Finland made such a good (albeit cold) impression on you :)