Santa Claus – all that you need to know about Father Christmas

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Santa Claus, also known as just plain Santa or Father Christmas, is the most famous resident of Finnish Lapland. In this blog post, I will tell you all that you need to know about him, as well as answering some frequently asked questions.
Santa Claus pictured in a fell in Finland

How old is Santa Claus?

The history of Santa Claus is considered to have begun in what is now Turkey in the city of Myra in the 250 – 300s.

In fact, the origins of Santa Claus can be traced all the way back to a monk named Saint Nicholas, who was born between 260 and 280 A.D. This means that in 2021 Father Christmas would be about 1750 years old. Saint Nicolas was a well-known benefactor and helper of children. Although the history of Father Christmas is long, he did not begin to develop into his current form until one and a half thousand years later.

Santa Claus began to get his character and became known in Europe as a gift distributor only in the 19th century. In Finland, Santa Claus in 19th and in the early 20th centuries was a gray, modest hubby, usually wearing a coat. Santa Claus did not take on his current shape in the world and in Finland until the 1930s.

Santa Claus arrived in Finland from Central Europe through Sweden. The Finnish name of Santa, which is joulupukki, refers to the old kekripukki or nuuttipukki tradition. Nuuttipukki used to roam Finland in ancient times, often dressed as a buck, in January begging for Christmas food leftovers from the houses.

Even earlier, nuuttipukki was known as a man with antlers, and wandered around the houses drinking alcohol. The drunken man could try to scare the children, but sometimes he also handed out gifts.

Santa lives in Korvatunturi

Santa Claus and Christmas elves in Finnish Lapland
Elves are important helpers for Father Christmas © Kimmo Syväri | Visit Finland

In Finland, Santa Claus lives with his wife, elves and reindeer in Korvatunturi, which is a fell located in the town of Savukoski in Finnish Lapland. At Christmas, he leaves for his around the world trip with a reindeer pulling a sleigh to distribute presents. The start of Santa’s journey is also broadcasted every year in the Finnish TV.

The myth of Santa residing in Korvatunturi fell spread when Markus Rautio, also known as Uncle Markus, told about this in his Children’s Radio program on Yleisradio in 1927. In 1984, linguist Osmo Ikola wrote in an article in Kanava magazine that Rautio didn’t actually invent Korvatunturi as Santa’s residence on his own, but instead confirmed an older belief.

Ikola himself recalled that he had heard stories about Korvatunturi as Santa’s home when he was a child in the early 1920s. These stories were told, when he was visiting his grandparents in Loimaa parish. According to Ikola, the belief was known at least in Satakunta, Häme, the Vyborg region and the Tornio River Valley. According to the fairy tale Christmas of the Trolls, written by Sakari Topelius in 1867, Santa lived “far north,” in an unspecified place.

Many countries tend to think that the Father Christmas is living in their own own soil instead of Korvatunturi. The Swedish jultomten lives near Mora and his office is located in Gesundaberget. The Norwegians, on the other hand, have a Santa Claus village near Oslo, in southern Norway. The Danish version of Santa Claus lives in Nok, the capital of Greenland.

The American view of things is that Santa lives in North Pole.

In Finland, you can also meet Santa in many different locations, out of which the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi is probably the most popular.

How many elves and reindeers does Santa Claus have?

Reindeers and Santa Claus
Reindeers are also friends of Santa © Santa Claus Foundation | Visit Finland

Father Christmas would not be able to survive from all his hard and responsible work alone. This is why he has many helpers both at his workshop and during his journey. We know these helpers as Santa’s elves and reindeer.

No-one knows the exact number of Christmas elves that Santa has working in his village but an official interview conducted by This is Finland with one of Santa’s elves has revealed that there are at least hundreds of them. The small elves also are hundreds of years old, at least.

Before, Christmas elves used to distribute gifts on Christmas on their own, but nowadays they are thought to be Santa’s helpers who make gifts for children.

Christmas elves are also thought to be monitoring through the windows for children to find out whether they have been naughty or nice. The elves then report their findings back to Santa, who will then make the final decision, whether he will deliver them presents during the Christmas Eve. There are a lot of opinions about the kindness requirement because it can cause anxiety and take away the joy of children from Christmas.

The Christmas elf reappeared in Finnish folklore in the late 19th century. At Christmas, the elf was remembered with a cup of barley porridge. The birch whisk in the Finnish Christmas sauna was also left for the elf to use.

The case with Santa’s reindeer is simpler and in the modern time it is considered that Father Christmas has nine reindeers in total. These nine are – Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and the most famous one of them all: Rudolph, who is also known as the red nosed reindeer.

The very first mention of Santa’s reindeer companions comes from an 1821 illustrated children’s poem, which was created by an unknown author.

The reindeer then received the names we know them by today in Clement Clarke Moore’s 1823 poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” which is perhaps more commonly known as “Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas”.

How to send mail to Santa Claus?

Santa Claus is reading a letter that he has received from abroad
Santa receives about million letters each year. © Kimmo Syväri | Visit Finland

Korvatunturi mountain has its own postal code, which is 99999. From there the post is delivered to Rovaniemi, where the Santa Claus Village is located. The other option is to send the letters directly to Rovaniemi, where Santa’s official mailing address is:

Santa Claus’ Main Post Office

Tähtikuja 1

96930 Arctic Circle

Finland

During the holiday season, Father Christmas receives a really big number of letters. Around 30,000. Every. Single. Day! This keeps his specially trained post office elves pretty busy, sorting and preparing the letters for Santa to read. He gets letters of all lengths, sizes, sorts, and also in many languages as the letters keep coming from all over the world.

The letters to Santa are not just from children, but also from adults, families, schools, businesses, celebrities, and even international politicians. The favorite letters and post cards are stored in the National Archives of Finland.

One option is also to deliver your mail in person and meet Santa Claus. In Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, you can meet Santa’s reindeer, his capering elves, and deliver your Christmas wishes and greetings to Father Christmas in person. And the best thing about a personal meeting is the fact that you can do it any time of the year: in mid-summer, autumn, spring or during the winter holiday season.

Video call with Santa Claus

Another way to meet Santa Claus is to book an online video call with him.

During the calls, just like during live visit at the Arctic circle, even the adults also tend to get quite emotional. Many adults around the world do like to look back on the Christmases of their childhood or to fulfill their longtime dreams of being able to meet Santa Claus.

This year and the previous one, have been such that people have wanted to relive and remember the carefree Christmases of their childhood. That’s the sort of atmosphere they now also want to create for their children.

Santa Claus himself has also been very pleased that his elves have come up with this clever idea, which has made it easier for him to keep in touch with people all over the world. Great video conference tools and good quality internet connections help deliver the magic of Christmas and Lapland from the Santa Claus Office to every home and community, no matter where you are.

During the last couple of years, the Santa Claus of Rovaniemi has had video calls with not only individual people but also with various communities, such as day care centers, work communities and schools all around the world.

Is Santa Claus real?

Santa claus and children in Christmas morning in Finland
© Lauri Kivikataja | Visit Finland

This is a question that many children ask from their parents. Many adults tend to think that Santa isn’t real, but this really isn’t a fact. If you think about the Santa Claus that you can meet in Rovaniemi, for example: his job is to work as Father Christmas, which means that he is a Santa Claus. Same logic applies to me also: I wasn’t born as a digital marketing specialist, but that is what I do for living and that is also who I am.

How does Santa deliver all the presents in just one night?

Santa Claus' sleigh and reindeer
Santa delivers gifts all around the world with his sleigh. © Juho Kuva | Visit Finland

Many people wonder, how is Santa Claus able to deliver all those gifts around the world in just one night? In one long night, a stout and elderly man, equipped with a magic sleigh and nine flying reindeer, delivers toys to children in every household all over the world. This might sound impossible, but is it really?

You cannot help but to wonder if this could physically be possible. If He had the right technology and technique, could he make all these deliveries on time? With the world’s population now more than 7 billion people, it’s a tougher job than ever for Father Christmas. But with the power of science — and maybe a little bit of Christmas spirit — Santa Claus is more than up to the challenge.

To make things simpler: Santa has the responsibility of delivering presents to right around 500 million households, with a mean separation that rises to 0.33 kilometers, when you consider the houses that Santa can’t visit.

There are many variables to think about during his journey and many other questions raising their head. How can he fly with an open sleigh, without all the presents flying away? How can he visit all those houses and never even leaving a footprint? When does he have time to enjoy all those glasses of milk and gingerbread cookies that families have left for him? And of course: at which point he visits the bathroom?

The only real thing that you should really think about here is that you only need to believe in him. With a bit of Christmas magic, anything is possible. And if you do believe, there will never be a Christmas without Santa Claus and gifts.

Sources and about the subject elsewhere: Visit Rovaniemi | Santa and magic of Christmas in Rovaniemi Lapland.fi | How to write a letter to Santa Visit Finland | Meet Santa Claus Forbes | This is how Santa can deliver all the gifts in just one night

The main image of the article: Kimmo Syväri | Visit Finland

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