This is the sequence of events that led good old Santa Claus to have a Finnish passport. The origin of the legend of Santa Claus is located in a real person: Saint Nicholas, a Christian bishop who lived in the fourth century in a small city in Anatolia (modern Turkey) and who became famous for his generosity, especially with children. , to those who left gifts secretly entering through the windows of their houses. Later, in 1623, Dutch emigrants brought the tradition to North America by founding New York. Throughout the nineteenth century, various graphic and literary publications were shaping the character as we know him today. Finally, the Coca-Cola campaigns from 1931 onwards popularized her plump silhouette, her red and white suit, and her reindeer sleigh. But…. Where did the entourage come from?
It was clear that, if they were traveling by sleigh and with reindeer, they would not be from Jamaica. The first location of such an honorable domicile was given by an American frozen food company that monopolized the sale of reindeer meat and did an advertising campaign in 1926 with the image of the most Christmas chubby and his reindeer: it came from the North Pole. And so they continue to believe it in much of the United States.
But the company disappeared and no one lives in the North Pole to make the postal code profitable. So: where were the reindeer, but further south? Indeed: in Lapland. But Lapland is a cross-border territory shared by Finland, Sweden and Norway (also partly Russia). Which of the three?
“Santa Claus is from Drøbak,” say the Norwegians. At least, this is what the website of the Tourist Office of this city announces, located about 40 minutes by car south of Oslo, where there is a Christmas house and a Santa Claus post office where letters from children arrive. from all over the world and where you can buy a postcard with Santa’s official stamp.
“Santa Claus lives in Greenland,” says a popular Danish travel website with great conviction. “This is true and well known, what happens is that there are people in other countries who have different perceptions of the truth,” they add without complexes. For the children of Denmark, the character’s home is in Uummannaq, a town of 1,500 on Greenland’s west coast of beauty only comparable to the complexity of its name. He has a warehouse at the North Pole and a PO box in Illulisat (the postman from Uummannaq was seen to be out of supply).
The Swedes were more pragmatic. He has his own particular Santa Claus: Jultomten or simply Tomten (a character that also exists in Norway). A mix between Saint Nicholas and the nisse or gnomes from Scandinavian folklore created by the painter Jenny Eugenia Nyström at the end of the 19th century to illustrate Christmas postcards. The Tomtens do not enter through the chimney, but through the door, and they do not live in any city. If you ask the Swedes, knowing that they have the lost war, they will answer that they come from the forest.
Because that trade war was long won by the Finns. So much so that today everyone accepts as unofficial and unofficial that Santa Claus lives in the Santa Claus Village from Rovaniemi, capital of Finnish Lapland, 815 kilometers north of Helsinki. It all started by a historical coincidence. Northern Finland was devastated after World War II. Much international aid for its reconstruction arrived, in part from UNRAA, UNICEF’s predecessor. One of those parties was destined to build a wooden cabin in Rovaniemi that would serve as a seed for tourism in the area. Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of Franklin D. Roosevelt -32nd President of the USA- and great mentor of UNRAA, announced her interest in personally inaugurating the cabin and, incidentally, getting to know Lapland. The decision caught the Finns off guard, who had to build it in just two weeks (if you think that leaving things to the last minute is very Hispanic, you are wrong). The cabin was built right where the Arctic Circle line intersects National Highway 4 – the longest paved road in the country, linking Helsinki with the great north – and was inaugurated by Mrs. Roosevelt on June 11, 1950. Since then At the moment, it became an obligatory stop for tourists who wanted to take a photo and buy a souvenir at the Polar Circle. The success was such that in 1965 it had to be expanded and five years later, a second annexed pavilion was built. The local Tourist Office thought that since they had a successful tourist attraction, why not provide it with more content. And that’s how Santa found a house without having to go to internet portals.
Since then, Mrs. Roosevelt’s humble cabin, converted into a commercial montage called Santa Claus Village that leaves the Disney world itself in blankets, has become one of the main winter attractions in all of Scandinavia. Rovaniemi, which could have been just another nondescript city, lost in the vastness of Lapland, today has 126 hotel establishments of various categories totaling more than 4,700 beds as well as 860 rental apartments on AirBnB. In 2019, according to data from the official website visitrovaniemi.fi, 373,000 tourists visited the city and its attractions; 9,100 of them, Spanish. More than 61,000 of these travelers did so in December, the month of high season in Lapland despite the average temperature being -3.7º (somewhat “warmer” than in 2018, which was -5.6º), in Christmas the sun barely rises above the horizon for a couple of hours and the average price of a room in the city is around € 178. Quite a triumph.
Papa Noel, Santa Claus, Old Easter, Santa, Pare Noel, Božiček, Père Noël, Fhater Christmas, Télapó, Baba Noel, Jultomten or Pai Natal. Whatever you call it, it’s a great deal. And the Finns knew how to see it before anyone else.