CHRISTMAS IN LAPLAND
We arrive two days before Christmas and are met at the airport by Johanna, our bubbly Bentours’ host. She takes us straight to Lapland Safaris HQ where we’re kitted out with essentials for our stay: overalls, woollen socks, beanies, scarfs, mittens and thick boots. Although dressing takes a good half an hour each day, we’re thankful for every single item. The icy air cuts like a knife and our ski gear doesn’t stand up to these subzero temperatures on its own.
The next reality check comes moments after checking into the Santa Claus Hotel. The winter sun has now set and the fairy lights on the Christmas trees in the town square are already twinkling. The digital clock tower outside our window tells us it’s only 18 minutes past three in the afternoon and the temperature outside is a frosty -16°C.
On our first evening Misses Seven and Nine get their first Safari passport stamp at the Husky Mushers Camp. While a crackling fire and fragrant hot berry juice tempts us inside the farm’s cosy log cabin, we’ve come especially for a dog sled ride. Protected by a thick layer of soft fur, these handsome blueeyed canines yap and strain at their leashes, excited and as eager as us to get going. On command, our sled jerks forward and we’re suddenly off, racing through the forest. Snow flies as the beam of our driver’s torch guides us through the inky winter darkness. We spend the rest of the evening getting to know our new four-legged friends.
Christmas Eve morning is dark and cloudy. As we tuck into a cooked breakfast, it starts to snow outside. Sculpted by nature, each perfectly pointed flake that lands on the window sill sparkles brighter than a Swarovski crystal.
We’re soon suited up and ready to go. This morning’s trail ride takes us deep into the ghostly forest to Santa’s secret hideaway. Eyes are glued to the snowy scenery for a glimpse of scarlet, sleigh tracks, a reindeer or one of Santa’s tiny helpers.
As our coach reaches its destination, rosy-cheeked elves appear out of nowhere. Their playful mood soon means snowballs are flying and laughter is echoing between the sugary birches and firs. To add to our joy, the skies have cleared and the sun has finally risen just above the horizon, casting a divine glow across our wooded setting.
After a traditional Sami (Lapp) welcome at a teepee camp, we’re then invited to put
FIVE STAR KIDS VOLUME 7 2015 our reindeer driving skills to the test over a frozen lake. Checks are made to see if any of these docile creatures sports a ruby red nose. Rudolph isn’t present, but the atmosphere is just as magical as our sleigh glides over the ice. When the cold begins to numb our faces and toes, we seek refuge inside a warm log hut, happy to thaw out with a steaming cup of soup and rice pudding. Tinsel and baubles are then brought out, an axe is found and a small tree is chopped down for all the children to decorate.
Back at our hotel there are more trees and gingerbread cookies to adorn, a traditional Finnish-style Christmas Eve feast to indulge in, but hands down, the highlight of the evening is an appearance from Santa himself with gifts to give. Judging by the kids’
Besides a selfie with Santa, who could resist the chance to dine in an igloo?