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In Search Of Santa

Wanting to give my son a magical memory he would remember forever, I booked one of those Finland Northern Lights tours to see the real Father Christmas in his natural habitat. I have to confess I was not relishing the prospect of a three and a half hour flight with an excited five-year-old but the time actually (forgive the pun) flew past. The crew entered into the spirit of Yuletide and, dressed as "Santa's little helpers", dispensed food, drinks, and coloring pencils. To the sound of "Jingle Bells", "Frosty the Snowman" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town", we dropped out of the clouds and into a winter wonderland.

Despite a temperature of -3 degrees centigrade, we were informed that it was a warm day, and we certainly felt warm by the time we had donned largely padded overalls, weighted boots and balaclavas. Outside, waiting for us, were sleighs pulled by drivers riding skidoos (snowmobiles). After seating us and then wrapping us in blankets, we were off, swishing through forests and across frozen lakes. The setting was so still, so tranquil and with such a magical atmosphere of expectation, the ride was the highlight of the trip for me.

All too soon, we had arrived at Santa's log cabin in the woods and his elves pointed out the candlelit pathway to his door. At this point I was rather worried that my child might turn and make a run for it, having previously been frightened of meeting Santa when he was younger. However, he seemed completely unfazed now and handed over his Christmas list to a delightful Santa who chatted with him and gave him a large gift-wrapped box. I, meanwhile, was happily taking photographs to remind my spoilt offspring of the day when he met the real Santa Claus.

Back in our skidoo-driven sleigh, we were taken to the village where we explored an ice castle and sat down on ice stools at a table made of solid ice to drink, fortunately, hot chocolate. Off we went to meet the reindeer, where my adventurous five-year-old leaped out of the sleigh to pat the reindeer's behind. This was much to the alarm of the guide who gently guided him round to the front of the animal. Tobogganing and skidoo riding followed. For young children, the skidoo tied with a long lead so that they can't make off for the open snowy wastes but for the adults there is a winding course they can drive around, and I can vouch that it is not as easy as it looks, although we were not going fast enough for my adventurous sprog.

Our search for the loo sent us into a warm welcoming hotel where we sat down to a three-course meal. Needless to say, my child was unable to eat all of it, being too impatient to return to the snowy outdoors.

In all, we were there for about five hours, which was just long enough to enjoy all the activities without starting to feel that we were just hanging around. My only disappointment was that after five hours in the snow with a hyperactive five-year-old, I could not console myself with a bit of retail therapy. In keeping with the non-commercialism of the place, there is really very little to buy unless you are into reindeer antlers and skins. I guess the positive side of that is that you generally do not spend any additional money.

Would I do this trip again? I have to say no, my little cherub was not as awed and starry-eyed as I had hoped he would be. I think that has more to do with the sophisticated nature of children these days such that a plane ride to see Father Christmas, even if it is to the arctic circle, is taken in its stride. The snow and activities were, however, a huge hit and an outward-bound type course is obviously the more sensible choice of entertainment in the future for my little Rambo. But I would love to return to Lapland with my husband on another kind of vacation to soak up the sheer magic and romance of this place.