As the coach took a turn off road and wound up a pine tree lined path the light changed, the dawn was slowly breaking, there was magic ahead…
Search for Santa Day
Yesterday we shared our experience of arriving in Saariselka, Lapland, with Santa’s Lapland on a 3 Day Santa’s Magic Tour. The second day is a full day of snowy festive activity!
Husky Sleigh Ride
I will never forget the call of huskies ready to ride echoing across the snowy wilderness. Pink and orange hues flooding over the horizon. It’s a sound that seems to resonate deep within, at a subconscious level, the psychologist Jung talks of a collective subconscious, which we all share, and this is the closest I have come to experiencing what that might feel like, if that doesn’t sound too strange. It’s like the sound has always been with you, yet you are hearing it for the first time.
This was unanimously our favourite experience. As the kids sang and leapt about like penguins with the staff, the adults had a driving lesson. I was so excited to discover we actually got to drive the sled ourselves, I felt giddy with the responsibility, but of course, the dogs are the ones who are really in charge.
The huskies are amazing, of the wild yet highly trained. One minute they are pausing to sniff a tree, just as our dog Max does, the next they are in perfect five formation, following their leader, the most experienced husky. The kids thought them managing to poo and run was brilliant and delighted in telling everyone all about that.
I loved taking the helm, holding the bar and standing a foot on each runner, leaning left and right into bends, pushing with my foot to make the ascent easier and controlling the brake to ensure the sled stays behind the dogs on the way down. The 2k course allowed Mr A and I to swap over so we both got to experience both giddy highs – driving and snuggling up with the kids who loved watching as shouting encouragement to the dogs. What a way to travel.
Afterwards we had chance to meet them, pet them and, in my case stare into their amazing eyes. Those eyes. They are incredible. From the back huskies are much smaller than you imagine, like domestic dogs, but when they turn round they instantly become wild again. Over 20% have eyes of different colours and 20% have blue eyes. Unlike what we have been fed by Hollywood, huskies are a mix of different dogs and are bred to work not to have a certain appearance, which is really apparent in the mixed colourings and shapes of our team. They are working animals and there are strict rules about their working day and routines. They are chained up because they love to run so much and if they were allowed to run free, they would run and would harm wildlife.
Snowy fun and snacks
The Search for Santa day is organised around one site, you can move around the activities at your leisure, apart from the huskies, which you are given a timed slot for. It didn’t take us long to find the wigwam with free pancakes and warm juice or the free tea and gingerbread room. It’s unusual on a family day out not to have to think about money at all, and not to be faced with gift shops and merchandise. Bliss! Instead the kids got stuck into trying tandem skis, snowmobiles and sledging.
This was served in a hygge filled Scandi log lodge. Eating in a beautiful setting makes such a difference to me. Wiping up every last bit of sauce with freshly baked baguette, Mr A declared it the best Spag Bol he has ever eaten. I had a veggie option which was tasty and nutritious with beans and veg. It’s exactly the kind of food you need when it’s cold. We were recharged and ready to meet Santa!
Snowmobile Santa Search
We became quite giddy waiting for this, there was a little queue as each family gets their own sleigh and Santa experience. But the staff had us singing by the campfire, and there was ice hockey and ice fishing for the kids to try.
Our snowmobile-led sledge arrived and we sped off through the trees to meet the man himself. I won’t spoil the surprise, I’ll just share that even though my kids no longer quite believe (10yo) and are on a mission to disprove Santa (8yo) he made them smile and giggle a lot, and they really loved that he was reading from the letters they had posted to him. Their presents were perfect too!
Reindeer Sleigh Ride
The light was fading fast as we gathered round the fire to wait for the reindeers. We snuggled and shared smiles and I love yous. My 10yo must have told me several times a day she loved me in Lapland, and my 8yo joined in and admitted ‘I kinda love you’, which is a very big deal for him.
This was the perfect reflective end to the day, slow and mindful plodding through the snow, sleighs drifting through the woods, a strange Narnia like procession. A long chain of sleighs and reindeer forms, each creature stands slightly to the side of the sleigh in front so you can stare deep into their big black eyes and admire their incredible antlers. There’s a softness there, and a connection that you wouldn’t expect, a cross between a wild deer and a domesticated horse.
Reindeer Show and Elf Igloo
Credit to the performers, these shows had my kids really giggling, but while I enjoyed the elves at the airport I felt the two short shows came across as a bit cheesy in the beautiful woodland snow setting. As an ex drama teacher I’m going to stick my neck out and say I think there’s opportunity for something less pantominesque, but I appreciate we all have different tastes. I think it could be spellbinding and magical rather than slapstick. However, the kids were very happy, it was amazing to set foot in a giant igloo and we learnt a lot of educational facts about Lapland and reindeer.
This was a fun distraction while we waited for the next show in the neighbouring igloo. Spot the fire exit gag in the pink pic!
I won’t lie, wrestling your whole family into long johns, snow suits, multiple socks, snow boots, mittens, hats and neck warmers ready for a Search for Santa Day is a challenge at first. We also spent considerable time debating layers before we left. Even though the forecast was 0 degrees at the resort, it’s often much colder at the artic circle where the activities take place. You definitely need long johns and long sleeved thermals followed by another long layered top and bottoms, followed by your thermal suit. All the sweating in the hallway was worth it though, as we didn’t feel the cold all day, or feel hot and sweaty, or like Michelin men again. In fact, I loved every minute of feeling totally snug in the snow.
It was an absolutely epic day with Santa’s Lapland. I have a zillion gorgeous photos of happy kids, and a couple of me as always. Huskies, reindeer, snowmobiles, sledging, hot juice, gingerbread, pancakes, campfires, snuggles and so much love. Every time I looked round there were happy twinkles in my family’s eyes. On the coach back to the hotel, fairy lights twinkled and Michael Buble on the stereo crooned Christmas songs. I watched our 8yo asleep next to me, and our 10yo cuddled up with Mr A. I hadn’t felt festive in the run up to Christmas and I hadn’t known why, but here was all that magic we’d dreamt of, and so much more besides.
We all felt so close, happy and content on our trip, it was a wonderful family bonding experience. We do a lot of family travel, and we promise you, it isn’t always this easy or as magical. We were unanimous in naming this our top adventure of 2016.
While it must be lovely to take kids at the peak of their Santa appreciating days, it really didn’t matter in the end what my kids feel about Father Christmas, the festive feeling Lapland delivers is the sum of many magical parts, not just the meeting with Santa. It’s a restorative experience for those ‘inbetweeners’ clinging on to believing, and perfect therapy for those filling the void of feeling a bit old for Santa.
Already we felt we’d had the best day ever as a family, but we still had 24hrs to go…
What’s a gala dinner?’ asked my 10yo.
‘I’m not sure’ I confessed. ‘Maybe it’s a way of making our last night sound less sad?’
It turns out a gala dinner is like all your Christmas dinners coming at once. In a secret upstairs room at the hotel, full of festive lights and twinkling snowflakes, a gigantic buffet awaited us. We pulled our crackers, donned our party hats and tucked in. I enjoyed veggie cutlets, carrot casserole and roasted veggies while the others tucked into meats and veg, and pizza, chicken nuggets and chips from the kids’ buffet.
Then cheese, pud, and dreams of other worldly landscapes, and moomins. I swear I dreamt of moomins. I blame the cheese.
I’ll be back on Monday with a snowy day at the resort, and footage of us attempting the longest toboggan run in Finland.
Here is the Search for Santa day in video, dive in, hope you enjoy!
Ready to find out more?
We travelled to Lapland as guests of Santa’s Lapland on a three day Santa’s Magic Tour which includes flights, transfers, accommodation, thermal clothing, a Search for Santa Day including a Husky Sleigh ride, Reindeer Sleigh Ride, private meeting with Santa by Snowmobile to his cabin, lots of snow fun activities including ice fishing, tobogganing and skiddos, breakfast, and for those who book half board, dinner and a Gala Christmas dinner. Four day tours are also available and there are optional extra excursions like Northern Lights tours. Find out more about Santa’s Lapland and book for 2017. Free child places are available, but are limited, find out more here.
Read my post about the journey and accommodation.
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