There's still one form of correspondence that hasn't been taken over by email: kids' letters to Santa. At Santa Claus Village, 8 km north of Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland, ol' St. Nick gets nearly a million letters a year from children worldwideespecially from Japan. And now he even writes back (for details, go to www.santagreeting.net
and expect to pay about $8.)
If the kids have been especially nice this year, you might reward them with a trip to the Santa Claus Village, the self-proclaimed hometown of Father Christmas. It boasts several kid-friendly attractions, including a reindeer farm with sleigh rides, and Santa Park, a subterranean Disneyesque recreation of St. Nick's abode. (The big guy in the red suit is available for photo-ops.) The kids can even hand deliver their Christmas letters at Santa Claus' post office, which comes complete with a souvenir shop manned by elves. The experience is every bit as kitsch as it sounds, but your childrenand the child in youwill love it.
Finnair flies several times daily to Rovaniemi from Helsinki. Tickets are $170 for children and $210 for grown-ups. The children may want window seats, in the hope of spotting a certain team of reindeer on a practice flight for the big night.
A winter vacation in Lapland would be incomplete without a side trip to one of the world's weirdest hotels, the Snow Castle in Kemi, 120 km south of Rovaniemi. The hotel, restaurant, and theme castle are all constructed annually from solid ice. They open for guests starting New Year's Eve: for details, go to www.snowcastle.net. Yes, the restaurant has reindeer on the menubut your kids would never forgive you for eating Rudolph.