Finland – Where is Santa Claus from?
Situated in the north of Europe, Finland is also known as the country of 1.000 lakes. Most of Finland consists of low, woody terrain. It is estimated that Finland has around 60.000 lakes. This northern country has three main districts: Finnish Lapland, Finnish Lakeland and the district of Coastal Finland. The Finns have great respect for their natural environment, so they adapted all construction to be environmentally friendly. Although summer is probably a better choice for tourists, a lot of them come in the winter because of Lapland and the legend of Santa Claus. About half a million of tourists visits Santa Claus’ village every year.
Finland has a female president, Tarja Halonen, who is also the first woman ever to hold this office. She is also known for her presidential campaign in which she accentuated that she lives with her partner, but is not married. There are but a few countries in the world where a women would run for president without being married, let alone pointing it out in the campaign. That is why today, when we talk about gender equality and women in public affairs and politics, Finland stands out as a positive example. Women there have a 50 percent share, so very often Finland takes the top spot in surveys and reports on these matters. Finland joined EU in 1999, and its official currency is the euro. Finland is famous around the world for its excellent health care system, free education, design, mobile phones, and lately for its heavy metal bands (Lordi won the Eurovision song contest in 2006). It is also known for the cold climate, lots of snow (five months in the south, even longer on the north) and short days. Still, life is pleasant there.
Finnish Lakeland is the area the Finns call Suomi. It is characteristic for its wooden house settlements and beautiful nature. Like in all other parts of Finland, almost all indoor areas have saunas, so very often people stop their work in offices to go warm up in a sauna. The town of Lahti is the center of winter sports.
Coastal Finland district
The Coastal Finland is divided into the northern (Bothnian Sea) and southern region (Gulf of Finland), although it makes for a unique region. This part of Finland is home to the capital of Helsinki, with one million of its inhabitants (1,2 million if you include the small towns surrounding it). The Finns built its capital to be fit for people to live in. There is no luxury, no Renaissance or Baroque buildings. There are no skyscrapers, and the old factories are converted into youth clubs and cultural centers. Especially nice is the sports section of town as well as the Harwall arena sports facilities. You should definitely visit Kiasma, contemporary arts museum, and also the an interesting construction achievement, the Temppeliaukion Kirkko church. The Rock Church, as they call it, was designed by architects Tim and Tuomo Suomalianen. It was opened and dedicated in 1969. Covered with a copper dome, it looks great when snow covers Helsinki. Since we are used to high-rise churches whose towers rise over town districts, this church, buried into the ground with a wall-rock left inside the church, is a remarkable building. The church is very often a venue for concerts because of its excellent organs and great acoustics.
You can do your shopping in malls or smaller stores that are very well supplied. In Helsinki, like in all big cities, you can find all the leading brands. The street with the finest brands is called Esplanadi, with lots of parks nearby. Prices in Finland are acceptable, so we can recommend you to purchase vases, candle sticks, home decorations, Finnish designs (glass, plastic, porcelain) or clothes by Finnish designers like Aero, Iitala, Marimekko or Aarikka.
What do Finns eat?
Finns like healthy food. Their menu includes a lot of fish and crab. Their favorite fish is the herring. They adore healthy food like rye, barley and oats, and they use medicinal flour made of pinewood bark as a food supplement. Healthy nutrition is stimulated by the Finnish authorities, supporting and financing healthy nutrition programs because they consider it has direct effect on health.
Feast of St. Lucy
On St. Lucy’s day, the menu consists of smoked fish with mustard. The fish is usually salmon, while the mustard is seasoned with dill and honey. All restaurants are festively decorated, while young girls dressed in white go around the stores with lit oil-lamps, singing folk songs. Finns drink milk, buttermilk, home-made vodka, mead, beer, wine, and especially black coffee.
Helsinki’s airport of Vantaa is one of the most beautiful airports. This modern building and the first thing a tourist encounters when he comes to Finland. It is special for many things, and characteristic for its architecture and interior design. It differs from European airports, but then again it is extremely functional, satisfying all the needs a traveler might have. We found it interesting because of the interior designed by Pekka Salminen. He is an architect who is so much in love with Croatia that he bought a house on the island of Unije, where he organizes architectural workshops. It is perhaps even more interesting that he grows olives and makes olive oil using the ancient method, crushing olives with a stone press. He puts the oil into small bottles and takes them to Finland as the most precious objects, giving them as presents to his friends. He is a world renowned architect who has one of the most beautiful offices not far from Helsinki, located in the garden that in its inventory and décor has plants characteristic for garden architecture from around the world.
Santa Claus – a good old man who receives letter from children all around the world asking for presents. On Christmas day he goes around the world in his reindeer sled delivering presents to children. The nice Santa Claus is a legend from Lapland, situated some 800 kilometers north from Helsinki. Santa’s village is located near Lapland’s capital, Rovaniemi, a town that was designed by the most famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto after it was destroyed in WWII (town – street layout is shaped after reindeer horns). All the mail arrives to Santa Claus’ village near Rovaniemi, where elves sort hundreds of thousands of letters. Even if they are not properly addressed to be delivered to Rovaniemi Lapland, every post office in Finland has its very own elf who forwards the mail to the right address.
Along with the magical landscape, a lot of snow and ice, preserved nature and beautiful settlement, who would not believe in a good Santa who rides around in a sled, delivering presents around the world? In this big job he is aided by everyone, numerous parents and friends to the children.
The legend has it that the first wooden house in Rovaniemi was built in 1950 for Eleanor Roosevelt, in the place where the Arctic Circle begins. The legend also has it that Santa Claus like the house so much that he decided to move in. Arrak Group, a distinguished Finnish association of architects, designed the entire Santa Claus’ village, and ever since, the fairy tale became reality. A reality you can visit.
Author: Morana Palikovic