© Misima | Dreamstime.com – Santa Claus Village
Rovaniemi, in northern Finland, has probably been inhabited since the Stone Age. Due to its location as a gateway to the arctic, the capital of the multicultural region of Finnish Lapland has attracted travelers from various cultures throughout its history. Nowadays, Rovaniemi is the home of approximately 61,000 people and serves as a commercial as well as an educational center. The University of Lapland, which is the northernmost university of the European Union, hosts the Arctic Center, an international multidisciplinary research institute dedicated to Arctic issues. Furthermore, the university’s faculty of law developed a research program focusing on Sámi Law.
The Sámi are the indigenous population of Lapland traditionally known as “Lapps” or “Laplanders”. They have lived and worked in the region that stretches over northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Russian Kola Peninsula, for at least 5,000 years. Archeological findings suggest that the earliest settlements found in the region even date back as far as 12,000 years. The main livelihood for the Sámi has been fishing, fur trapping, and sheep and reindeer herding. The Sami have a rich culture of musical traditions, dances and handcraft, all of which are present in Rovaniemi. In recent years the Sámi have faced various challenges due to the commercial exploitation of their land and resources as well as the destruction of the Arctic ecosystem in the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. In addition, the aboriginal population has been the subject of discrimination by the dominant cultures in all the countries sharing the region of Lapland. The main issues are the Sámi people’s land and water rights as well as the barrier free access to educational, social and health services in Sámi language.
Apart from its cultural offerings, Rovaniemi is a good site to witness the magical spectacle of the Aurora Borealis. Also known as the Northern Lights, the aurora is the result of the collision between gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere and charged particles released from the sun. The aurora often appears as clouds of lights, but it can also look like arcs or spirals, often following the Earth’s magnetic field. Most Northern Lights are green in color but sometimes they show a hint of pink, and strong displays might also boast red, violet and white. However, apart from scientific explanations there are numerous legends and myths about the true nature of the Aurora Borealis. In many indigenous cultures it is believed that the lights are the spirits of either their people or the animals they hunted. For the Lapps, the lights have a spiritual effect. As they also believe the lights are the souls of their ancestors, the time of the Aurora Borealis is regarded as a time of peace and respectful solemnity.
Last but not least, Rovaniemi is also the place where you can meet one of the world’s most famous men. Even though Santa Claus’ home is still “one of the world’s closest guarded secrets”, there is a place where we can meet him on any day of the year. Rovaniemi has dedicated the bearded man it’s Santa Claus village, where Santa fans get the opportunity to meet the famous Claus as well as take part in numerous activities such as visiting Snowman World, snowmobiling or riding on sleighs pulled by huskies.
It seems that Santa has chosen a magical place full of history, culture and miracles of nature to call his home.