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 >  www.santaclausvillage.info

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 >  www.santapark.com

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 > www.visitfinland.com

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Christmas and winter activities in Finland

The Finnish Tourist Board is promoting Lapland as a Christmas Wonderland with a series of five to eight-day packages.

The packages include Continental Journeys’ six-day air-inclusive “Christmas in Lapland-Rovaniemi” departing New York on December 22. The package includes plenty of activities such as a snowmobile safari, a magical forest walk with Santa’s helpers, visit to a reindeer farm, Santa’s Workshop and Santa’s Park, a snow carnival and ice fishing. Included are tourist-class hotels, upgradeable to superior and first class hotels, most meals, daily sauna, hotel taxes and service charges. Add-on gateways and additional nights are available. Info at > www.continentaljourneys.com

Five Stars of Scandinavia’s five-day Rovaniemi land-only package, has three departures December 16, 23 and 30. Participants earn a reindeer driving license, learn about reindeer herding, take a husky safari and a snowmobile safari, and visit Santa Claus Village to meet Santa Claus. Included are four nights’ hotel accommodations, four dinners and breakfast daily, daily sauna use, all equipment and special winter gear, and hotel taxes and service charges. Info at > www.5stars-of-scandinavia.com

A fully escorted, eight-day upscale tour from Maupintour spends two nights exploring Helsinki and four in Rovaniemi, all in deluxe hotels. In Lapland, an icebreaker cruise kicks off the stay in Kemi, followed by a visit to Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi and a reindeer farm, activities such as a snowmobile safari, a toboggan run, snow-shoeing and ice fishing. The December 20 departure includes all excursions, six nights accommodations, most meals, daily sauna use, and escort. Info at > www.maupintour.com.

The Finnish Tourist Board at > www.finlandkingsroad.com

Helsinki’s Ylläs-Halli Center for Winter Activities offers a year-round locale where visitors can train or try out various winter sports such as biathlon, curling, ice skating, sledging, ice wall climbing or snow-tubing. To create a Ylläs Lapland feeling, the arena provides a “snowy” environment with walls covered with huge images of Lapland, ice bears and winter imagery, plus real trees. Included are a 1.2-kilometer cross-country ski track, with terrain options for beginners to advanced skiers, plus a supervised area where young visitors can practice sports. To minimize environmental impact, the arena produces its own energy in an environmentally friendly way. The arena utilizes geothermal heat, solar energy and wind power according to its own strict energy and environmental program. Info at > www.yllas-halli.fi

The Kannisto Domestic Animal Farm offers an unusual experience for families or anyone who would like to spend Christmas on a genuine farm. The holiday program starts Christmas Eve with a stables tour to meet the farm animals. Guests will hear stories about the life in the countryside followed by a traditional smoke sauna. The evening continues with a Christmas Feast and a visit by Santa Claus. On Christmas Day, the program includes cart or sledge riding, horseback riding or a walk to rocky Leikkilinna Mountain, and caroling. Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, gives guests traditional holiday pastry and time to experience outdoor activities and take care of the farm animals. Prices for the Christmas Holiday package are 280 euros per adult, 140 euros per child 7 to 14 years old, 70 euros per child 2 to 6 years old, and children under 2 years old are free. Included are accommodations for three nights with all meals, saunas, nature excursions, cart or sledge riding and Santa Claus’s visit. Info at > www.kannistontila.fi

Usually, Finland’s legendary Moomin trolls hibernate during the coldest months, but this year the magic of the season awakens the Moomin family from their winter’s sleep. Moomin Valley features skating and sledding, guests can meet the Moomin family and have lunch at Moomin Mama’s Kitchen, enjoy snacks in a Finnish cabin, and visit the Moominhouse. Moominworld, a theme park for children and families based on the books of Finnish artist and storyteller Tove Jansson, is open February 20 to 28. The park is located on the southwest coast of Finland on a small island facing the old town of Naantali, just 10 miles from Turku and a couple hours’ drive from Helsinki, Tampere or Pori. Sokos Hotels offers a package which includes accommodation for one night at Sokos Hotel Seurahuone in a double room with two junior cots (children under 2 years old are free), buffet breakfast and entrance to Moominworld for two adults and two children. Info at > www.muumimaailma.fi  or www.sokoshotels.fi

The Wild Taiga offers a variety of small hotels and tours in the wilderness just next to the Russian border. Tours here feature action-packed activities such as snowmobiling, husky safaris and cross-country skiing. Visitors can also horseback ride, go on a reindeer sleigh, fish, snowshoe or watch a wide variety of animals in their natural habitats. Kuhmo and Suomussalmi, two cities in the Wild Taiga, are a textbook example of the mixture of rich tradition and strong local culture. The region’s settlement history is among the oldest in Finland. For those looking for cultural fulfillment the area offers a rich rural history, chamber music, rune singing, memorials of the Winter War and a variety of concerts. Info at > www.wildtaiga.fi

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 >

http://www.germany-tourism.de/ENG/culture_and_events/christmas_markets.htm

http://www.aboutaustria.org/veranstaltungen/veranstaltungen5.htm

http://www.enjoyengland.com/attractions/events/calendar/december/christmas-markets.aspx

http://www.tallinn-life.com/tallinn/christmas-market

http://www.helsinki.fi/en/index/tapahtumat/4643390f17ab2f7905aed556678f0fde.html

http://gofrance.about.com/cs/festivals/a/christmasmarket.htm

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 > http://www.bmag.org.uk/events?id=382&start=42

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

For additional details visit > http://www.cheltenhamchristmasmarket.co.uk/

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

For additional details visit > http://www.wincantonracecourse.co.uk/Home.htm

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

For additional details visit > www.tasteofchristmas.com

Christmas short break ideas in the UK

Here are some of the events and activities coming up all over the UK this festive Christmas season.

Skating in Cardiff > Enjoy the magical open air ice rink between 12 November 2009 and 3 January 2010. Civic Centre, Cardiff, tel 02920 230 130.

Trafalgar Square, London > As well as the traditional Christmas tree you can see a life-sized polar bear ice sculpture from 11th-20th December. Trafalgar Square, London.

Santa Weekend, Edinburgh > Carols, reindeer and the Great Scottish Santa Run. Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th December. Throughout Edinburgh, tel 0131 529 3914.

Winterfest, Glasgow > There are loads of Christmassy things going on in Glasgow including Glasgow on Ice from 21st November to 3rd January. George’s Square, Glasgow, tel 0141 564 4220.

Bath Christmas Market > Superb shopping in a beautiful setting. From 26th November to 6th December. Shopping district, Bath, tel 01225 396417.

Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre > Markets, fun fair and free entertainment. From 27th to 29th November. Historic town centre, Bury St Edmunds, tel 01284 764667.

Snow business in Manchester > Ski, board, skate and slide in Manchester’s winter wonderland throughout December. Trafford Quays Leisure Village, Manchester, tel 0161 749 2222.

“12 Days of Christmas” Festival, Dublin’s Docklands > This charming yuletide shopping event takes place from 12th to 23rd December. Docklands, Dublin.

Christmas in New York

Posted On October 16, 2007

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Event: December 9th 2007
Date: Christmas in New York at Lyric Theatre

For a contemporary seasonal show this Christmas time, those visiting London in December should visit the Lyric Theatre, close to luxury London hotel the Montague on the Gardens, to see Christmas in New York.

Presented by Notes from New York, Anna-Jane Casey takes the lead in this West-End Yuletide celebration also featuring Julie Atherton, Paul Spicer, Oliver Tompsett, Emma Williams, Melanie La Barrie, Matt Cross and many more. Renditions of songs by composers including John Bucchino, Craig Carnelia, David Friedman, Andrew Lippa, Charles Miller, Grant Olding and Maury Yeston will be performed in this special one-off Christmas event. Carols and a musical version of Twas the Night Before Christmas will also be performed.

According to AllinLondon, last year’s show was a sell-out and evokes a “magical time of year in a much loved city”. The show is recommended for musical theatre fans and those who like to get into the festive spirit. Those enjoying the seasonal performance can round off their festive London visit with a stay at luxury hotel the Montague on the Gardens.

Related Links >
http://www.montaguehotel.com/british_museum_hotel

http://www.officiallondontheatre.co.uk/shows/display?contentId=95855

Christmas through the ages

Posted On October 16, 2007

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For some it may seem that traditional Christmas values and customs are being forgotten as the Christian festival arguably becomes secularised in Britain today.

However, this will not be the case on December 13th, when those staying at luxury London hotel the Milestone can take a look back at Christmas past on the Christmas through the ages walk in Kensington Gardens.

The free guided walk takes place from a location that will be revealed upon booking and will allow participants to discover the history of English Christmas folklore. Walkers will also learn about the part the royal parks have played in entertaining Londoners in winters in years gone by.

Those taking place in the walk are advised to dress for the outdoors, although if the weather is less than pleasant luxury hotel the Milestone is located nearby and will offer an inviting warm location for walkers to warm up after their exercise.

Before retiring to the luxury hotel those participating in the walk will learn the past relevance behind such phrases as “Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat” while enjoying a stroll in the beautiful grounds of Kensington Gardens.

Related Links >
http://www.royalparks.org.uk/learning/event.cfm?id=865

http://www.milestonehotel.com

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