Finland, the real home of Santa Claus

Promoting itself as the “real home of Santa Claus,” Finland celebrates Christmas with markets, festivities and traditions, all culminating on Christmas Eve with a taking of the sauna, enjoyment of Christmas treats and gatherings with friends and family, and a visit by Santa Claus.

Santa Claus, or Joulupukki in Finnish, is known to reside in northeastern Lapland, on the Korvatunturi Fell. Legend states that the Korvatunturi Fell is shaped like an ear, allowing Santa to hear the wishes of children from around the world. Korvatunturi is “home base” for Santa’s travels above the Arctic Circle.

Santa Claus’ Office is in Santa Claus’ Village on the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland. The nearest town, Rovaniemi, is 8 km away. (Highway 4 north of Rovaniemi).

Santa Claus Village, open throughout the year with free admission, is home to Santa Claus’s Office where visitors can meet Santa, visit his Main Post Office and observe the flurry of the festive season. Cards, letters and parcels sent from Santa Claus’ Main Post Office are stamped with a unique Arctic Circle postmark. Through the years Finland’s Santa Claus has received more than 18 million letters. Each year he receives more than 600,000 letters from more than 150 countries. More info at >

Santa’s Park is a fantasy world inside an underground cave where “elves” work all year in preparation for Christmas. Guests can bake and decorate gingerbread in the Gingerbread Kitchen, learn elf skills in Elf School, or make Christmas decorations in the Elf Workshop. Santa Park’s Sleigh Ride takes guests through four seasons of Finland to the elves’ toy factory where presents for Christmas are made. Entrance is 20 euro for children and 25 euro for adults through January 10. More info at >

According to the Finnish tradition, Christmas is brought to the homes by St. Thomas on December 21 (St. Thomas Day) and is taken away by St. Knut on January 13. St. Thomas markets prepare for the December 21 celebration, selling handmade Christmas decorations, ornaments, handicrafts, gifts, and treats such as gingerbread and hot mulled wine, Glögi, a warming combination of wine, spices and fruit. The St. Thomas Market in Helsinki, in Esplanade Park, is the largest Christmas market in Finland with approximately 150 vendors. On weekends, entertainment includes a Finnish Christmas pageant and a visit by Santa Claus. The market is open daily from December 7 to 20. In Turku the Christmas Fair is open on weekends through December 25. More info at >

Christmas shopping in Europe

There are many shopping possibilities around Europe to get travellers in the Christmas Spirit.

Many European cities are attracting guests with the lowest hotel rates of the year allowing travellers to get in some cheap last minute shopping before Christmas. In Milan, 110 euro, travellers save 14 percent in comparison to the previous month, in Venice, 115 euro, twelve percent. Prices have also decreased in Nice, 85 euro, eight percent less and Barcelona, 96 euro, nine percent less.

To prolong the festive season into 2010, travellers can visit the Three King’s celebration on the 6th January in Barcelona.

In comparison to the previous month, hotel prices have risen in European cities that offer Christmas markets throughout December. In the German city of Nuremberg travellers pay 108 euro for a standard double room over the Christmas period, twelve percent more than in November. The same can be seen in other German cities, such as Dresden, 86 euro, an increase of ten percent and Stuttgart, 108 euro, an increase of six percent.

The same trend can also be seen in popular cities in Austria and Switzerland. A standard double room in Vienna is 109 euro in December, five percent more than the previous month, while in Zurich prices have increased due to the Christmas market by three percent to 183 euro.

Although Christmas markets in Europe are mostly associated with Germany and Austria, many others can also be found in England, Estonia, Finland, France and other countries around Europe. However, my favorite one is in Berlin, Germany and that is not due to hot mulled wine only!

Take a look at the following links >

More Christmas short break ideas in the UK

More Christmas short break ideas in the UK >

* Aston Hall by Candlelight, Birmingham > Beautifully lit by over 300 candles. 3rd-12th December (closed 7th December).

For additional details visit >

* Cheltenham Christmas Market > Discover a wide range of festive crafts and gifts. 20th November-6th December.

For additional details visit >

* Wincanton Racecourse > Blow off the cobwebs at an exciting Boxing Day meet. 26th December.

For additional details visit >

* Taste of Christmas 2009, Excel, London > Taste of Christmas runs from 4-6 December. Tickets from £19.

For additional details visit >

Top 12 Christmas ‘dream toys’

The most hotly-tipped ‘dream toys’ for this Christmas were unveiled recently.

Film and TV shows have made their mark on this year’s wish-lists for both boys and girls.

And hi-tech gadgets rub shoulders with more traditional board games and dolls in the Toy Retailer Association’s predicted top toys for Christmas.

A Dr Who Cyberman Mask and the interactive toy car Fast Talkin’ McQueen, inspired by the hit movie Cars, will be hot favourites with boys this year.

Hollywood movies Pirates Of The Caribbean and Star Wars have also made their mark, inspiring the Isla Cruces playset and a Transformer toy set.

The girls’ top 12 list includes a Disney Princess chair, and a Let’s Dance Barbie, based on the sixth Barbie movie, will add a new twist to the long-standing favourite doll.

Pre-schools will prefer toys inspired by Bob The Builder and Thomas The Tank Engine.

Their top 12 also includes the V Smile Baby game, an interactive toy for children as young as nine months.

For older children, the list includes Hasbro’s Trivial Pursuits 90s and the electronic board game of Deal Or No Deal.

Toy Retailers Association (TRA) chairman Gary Sadler said: ‘We are currently seeing a resurgence in licensed toys, which combine fun and playability with the familiarity of popular characters.’

The TRA’s independent predictions are based on retailers’ opinions, items requested by shoppers and the latest trends in new products.

Hot Christmas Gadgets include Nintendo Wii, Sat Nav and iPods

Christmas, of course, comes earlier every year. For retailers it starts earlier than most as they try to identify the year’s ‘must have’ gifts. In order to give them a bit of a hand, we’ve spent the last week analyzing search data in order to make some predictions as to what we think will be this year’s hot gadgets, entertainment, toys and fashions.

First a word on the methodology. Search term analysis provides great insight into people’s habits and desires, so we analysed the top 2,000 search terms that sent traffic to a Hitwise Custom Category consisting of the top 100 online retail websites in the UK during the four weeks ending 22nd September 2007. Gadgets are up first, and our defintion encompasses a range of consumer electronics products including mobile phones, computers and peripherals, games consoles, in car entertainment and navigation systems, and audio-visual equipment,

The Nintendo Wii is the most searched for gaming console in the UK, ranking as the sixth most popular gadget heading into Christmas, ahead of the Xbox 360 at number 7 and the Nintendo DS at number 8. There were 5 times as many searches for the Nintendo Wii as the Sony Playstation 3, which did not make the top 10 gadget list.

Mobile phones are the most popular gadgets in the UK, capturing 46% of all searches, followed by computers, iPods, satellite navigation systems and high definition televisions. The success for the TomTom brand of satellite navigation systems continues, with the number of searches for ‘tomtom’ double that for the generic term ‘sat nav’. Searches for ‘external hard drive’ have increased by 15% year on year, reflecting a desire among UK consumers to back up their precious collections of digital music, photos and video.

The Nokia N95 multimedia phone captures almost one in ten searches for mobile phone models in the UK, making it the most popular handset. It is followed closely by the stylish Nokia 6300, with 8.7% of searches, and the Samsung G600 5 mega pixel camera phone, with 8.5%.

The top mobile phone manufacturer by share of UK Internet searches is Nokia, which receives 35% of searches across the top 5 brands, followed by Sony Ericsson with 29% and Samsung with 24%. Motorola is at number four with a 6% share, followed by LG with 5%.

There are 14 times as many searches for the Apple iPod as for all the other MP3 players combined. Two thirds of searches are for the generic iPod, while one in five searchers is looking specifically for the iPod Nano, which has seen searches increase by 67% year on year.

The new iPod Touch and the UK release of the iPhone were announced too late to have a significant impact on the retail search data, but there is a huge amount of internet buzz about both products. For example, the volume of searches for ‘iPhone’ sending traffic to News and Media websites has increased 5 fold over the last month. With Apple the most searched for gadget brand in the UK, it seems likely that both products will find eager fans amongst British consumers. Dell is the second most searched for brand, receiving almost four times as many searches as its nearest rival HP.

Via > DigitalMediaWire

Christmas Crafts are delightful!

Rochdale business Craft Delights is kick starting the Countdown to Christmas on Thursday 4 October from 7pm – 9pm with a Christmas Craft Evening at the Urban Gallery, Meadowcroft Mill, Bury Road, Bamford, UK.

There will be craft materials on sale for card makers and scrapbookers as well as ceramic crafts to decorate and personalise as gifts.  There will be plenty of craft project ideas for stocking fillers and for children and for the not as creative, ready made gifts and cards.  All are welcome, entry is free and there will be refreshments. 

Anyone wanting to have a go at making their own cards for the first time is also encouraged to come along and will be sure of a warm welcome with plenty of tips of how to get started.

Craft Delights, run by Castleton based Ruth Percy, will also be celebrating its first birthday after a year of successful trading.  Ruth decided to set the business up after working in marketing for ten years.  She has a permanent display at the Urban Gallery and also sells on the internet.  As well as the business, she still works part-time for Sure Start in Rochdale. 

Ms Percy said: “On the day of the fair, it will be only 79 days to Christmas.  Card makers usually start around now to make enough cards for Christmas, so we are offering the opportunity to stock up on this year’s festive craft delights!  Christmas is my favourite time of the year, so I am looking forward to kick starting the season early with follow crafters.”

Christmas Ornament Benefits Cultural Fund

If you are looking to do some early Christmas shopping, you might consider getting an ornament from a North Dakota artist.

Jon Offut of Fargo is working with the North Dakota Council on the Arts to grow the North Dakota Cultural Endowment Fund. A special edition, hand-made ornament is for sale, and the Council says proceeds go to the Endowment Fund. It says the money provides artistic opportunities for people across the state. The Fund was created by the state legislature in 1979.

“One of the suggestions was to sell a handmade ornament created by a North Dakota artist,” says Amy Schmidt of the ND Council on the Arts. “So we decided to do that and for this we commissioned John Offut who is the owner and operator of the House of Mulciber Glass Studio in Fargo.”

For more information on the Special Edition Ornament, log onto Or you can e-mail, or call 701-328-7590.

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