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?

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