Santa In Ruka
In winter 2009 I took my two young children to visit Santa in Ruka, a magical experience.
Emerging from the long, unlit road, about a 30 minute drive from Ruka, into the warm welcoming lights of Santa’s house spilling over into his yard, I had excited butterflies in my tummy. I may well be thirty but I still couldn’t hold the grin back. We were at the home of Father Christmas! Santa’s actual house!
Before we even got out of the car, still fumbling with seat belts and child seat harnesses through thick gloves, the front door was opened and a warm glow fell across the porch and into the parking space.
‘Welcome!’ came the cry and we looked up to see two elves with little red Christmas hats on and a tall lady dressed in a long red coat, trimmed with fur, waving from the front door.
My daughter, 3.5 years, peered around me and broke out into a grin.
‘Look mummy, elves!’ She waved manically back as I unfastened her and then leapt from the car and ran up to the house stopping short and smiling up shyly.
Before the rest of us got to the front door she was already introducing herself in that serious way that three year olds have, holding out her hand to be shook by Mrs Claus. I peered around the hallway as we all said our hellos, passed Mrs Claus and the elves in their striped shirts and large elf boots, looking for the santa.
-Where is he?
I felt like a big kid.
The sound of a coach in the yard stopped us going any further into the house though, the rest of the group had arrived, it was time to go back outside. We followed the elves down snow packed paths, to the base of the hill on the edge of a frozen lake.
We were going sledging.
Santa In Ruka Sledging
Yes I live in Finland, yes I spend 6 months of the year in snow and spend umpteen hours dragging my kids round on sledges but rarely do I get to sit on one at the top of a really big hill. I left grandpa to take the kids on the smaller hill and let my inner child come out to play. If you can’t do that on a trip to santa’s house where can you? It was so much fun that when the kids started complaining of being cold I had to stop myself from having ‘just one more go’.
The cold wasn’t too much of a problem though, just a few yards away was a warm cabin with an elf grilling sausages and heating coffee and hot juice over a fire. Just the thing to warm those frozen fingers and toes. Even my 18 month old son forgot his woes and his fear of anyone he doesn’t know, with a freshly grilled sausage in his paw.
Once we’d all had our fill and my son had smeared enough ketchup round his face to satisy him, we followed the elves back up to the house, all of us walking a little faster than normal, an extra bounce to our step and chattering excitedly.
Was it finally time?
Would we get to meet Him now?
We piled in through the front door, shedding hats, coats and gloves and walked into the large wooden living room.
‘Look mummy! Santa!’
Meeting Santa In Ruka
And there he sat in his rocking chair, Mrs Claus at his side, smiling and chatting to the children, greeting everyone that came in. They quickly had a ring of excited but reverent children around them staring wide eyed at the real father Christmas, all excited whispers and open mouthed stares.
From further back in the room I’m sure my expression matched those of the kids. Just one glance told you that this was the real deal. There wasn’t a stuck on polyester beard or static inducing suit in sight. Not a sign of fakery, cotton wool or a cushion.
This WAS Santa.
Sat in his aged, creaking rocking chair next to a Chritmas tree with his steal grey beard, glasses perched on the end of his nose and his feet clad in enormous leather boots, he warmly greeted everyone and somehow mastered a group of children that had, up until 2 minutes ago, been an excited running, jumping, squeeling mass of high pitched velocity, into sitting quietly on the mats around his feet.
The parents and grandparents stood nervously at the door, wanting to go in, wanting to be part of it but hanging back. More shy than the children.
‘Please.’ his warm voice boomed across the room. ‘Please come in, sit down. We have much to talk about, no?’
And talk he did. As we sat, hushed, hanging off his every word he told us about life in Lapland and why he’d moved from the North Pole and then he answered questions about magic and reindeer and all manner of things, all in various languages, each answered back in the same language and then translated for the rest of us.
As the conversation drew to a close Santa pulled out a bag. ‘Now, each of you will need to wear one of these if you want to be my helper today.’ From the bag he pulled out a santa hat, one for each child. He handed them out whilst Mrs Claus bustled around the long, old, wooden table in the centre of the room.
‘Okay children.’ Mrs Claus called once they all had their hats. ‘Who would like to help me make some cookies.’
My daughters eyes lit up.
‘Baking!’ she squeeled, jumping to her feet, my son trailing behind her, still afraid of everyone but desperate to be included.
Baking with Mrs Claus and Santa in Ruka
They rolled out their dough again and again, making dogs and trees and stars, cookie after cookie being loaded onto the baking sheets. Mrs Claus and the elves moved from child to child, helping, talking and sharing jokes. Standing back and watching the scene it was like watching a grandmother with a room full of grandchildren. Santa stayed close by, moving around the table to inspect the cookies and talk to each child, spending time with everyone.
Whilst the kids baked, or in my son’s case, sucked on the dough and then spat it out onto his lap, the adults got to sit back and relax with a hot drink and a biscuit.
Sitting there with my cup of tea watching Santa tower over my 3 year old daughter, lean over and gently help her with the cookie cutter, I came over quite emotional. It was heart warming scene.
When the trays of cookies were full they were loaded into the huge, log burning oven in the corner of the room by an elf and more dough was brought out, this time to make buns.
‘Okay children. Why don’t you come and sit down here on the mat again.’ Santa’s voice called out once the buns were all assembled on the trays ready for baking. His voice silenced the giddy kids, high on cookie dough and juice. Within seconds they were all sat once again around his feet. ‘I have something for you’.
A Gift From Santa In Ruka
By name, he called each child up in turn, where they sat on his large knee, some shyly some brimming with excitment and chatter, each posing for photos before being handed a card, signed by santa, and a gift. My son wasn’t having any of it. He stood 60cms away eyeing the big man and the package he was holding out with suspision, before eventually taking it and retreating to a safe distance to inspect it.
The gift however was lovely; a traditional, soft, Christmas elf.
And just when we thought it must be over and time to go home, like indulgent grandparents, Mrs Claus pulled out some blank cards and Santa found some stickers and crayons and it was time to make some cards to send home. Being given her second favourite thing to do in all the world after baking, my daughter dived straight in colouring and sticking with all her might. She made umpteen pictures for Santa which she proudly took over to him and showed him whilst she sat on his knee again and again before running off to make another one.
Whilst the kids played some more there was plenty of time for the adults to chat with Santa and have their photo taken, lots more tea and coffee to be drunk and time for a quick trip to the gorgeous gift shop and post office where the kids could post their hand made cards to people back home.
We finally left from visiting Santa in Ruka 3 hours after arriving, happy, tired, laden down with gifts, cookies and buns to take home, each child with their santa hat still firmly afixed to their heads. We piled our outdoor clothes back on, walked out of the door and turned to say our goodbyes. To our surprise Santa, Mrs Claus and the elves were putting their huge red winter coats on too. They walked out of the house with us, chatting and saying goodbye as everyone climbed aboard the coach and into their cars and then stood in the cold dark night, waving us off on our journey back to Ruka.
Visit Santa in Ruka
Having worked as a holiday rep in the Alps and the local ski resort, Ruka, I have been on more than my fair share of santa trips. Some good, some not so good, but visiting Santa in Ruka was by far the best I’ve experienced.
A trip to Santa’s cottage is organised by Nordic Holidays. Each trip includes transfers, sledging, hot drinks, sausages, cookies, baking, colouring, and a santa hat and gift for each child.
Cost €60 per person.
Visits to Santa in Ruka lasts 3 hours. Journey time 30 minutes each way from Ruka. Pick up points are at Rukahovi Hotel, Hotel Tropiikki and Sokos Hotel Kuusamo.
For more information about visiting Santa in Ruka visit the Nordic Holidays website
Tel: 00358 (0)20 755 1850