ROVANEIMI, FINLAND: Jingle bells rang two months earlier this year for Pranab Mukherjee as he became the first Indian President to visit Santa Claus’s official workplace in Rovaneimi today, and met him in person, during his two-day visit to Finland.
Mr Mukherjee, accompanied by his daughter Sharmistha, spent a ‘fairytale’ day with a host of activities including a meeting with Santa and his elves, crossing the Arctic Circle and watching reindeers in action.
The President, on a two-day visit to Finland, was received in Rovaneimi by Mayor Esko Lotvonen, chairman of city council Heikki Autto and Managing Director for the Arctic Circle Jarmo Kariniemi.
They crossed the Arctic Circle, a highly popular ritual among tourists visiting the Santa Claus Village.
Rovaniemi is situated directly on the Arctic Circle at 66.5 degrees north latitude. This latitude marks the southern boundary of the Arctic region, known for its nightless summer nights and sunless winter days.
Mr Mukherjee and his daughter also received a certificate for crossing the Arctic circle.
Later, the President saw reindeers strolling at a farm. The reindeers are well known in folklore due to Santa Claus’s sleigh being pulled by flying reindeer, a popular element of Christmas.
From Santa’s Rudolph to reindeers with huge antlers, they caught his fancy as the instructors briefed him about their business of hunting of wild reindeers and herding of semi-domesticated reindeer for meat, hides, antlers, milk and transportation.
Mr Mukherjee, the first Indian head of state to visit the Santa Claus Village, covered in light snow, was greeted by the elves in Santa’s office as the giant pendulum called “Earth’s Rotational Speed Regulator” at its entrance was swinging.
The President saw longest wishlist received by Santa Claus in December, 2012 carrying 75,954 wishes. He also saw the clock that strikes only at midnight of Christmas and New Year.
The Santa Claus operates from his office housed in the same village where visitors can meet him throughout the year and ask him to grant their wishes.
Posing for a picture with the Santa, the President also shared his Christmas wish with him besides gifting him a marble elephant.
Mr Mukherjee told Santa that “people in India love you a lot. By meeting you, you have made my day.”
Santa replied: “No excellency, you are the President of such a big nation. By coming here you have made my day.”
He also visited the Santa’s post office in the village, a place which receives letters and parcels for Santa round-the- year. People from across the world, send their wish list to Santa through letters and the elves send replies to them stamped with a special Arctic Circle postmark.
The Santa Post office receives thousands of letters every year. A total of 80 million letters and cards have been received at the post office in past 20 years.
The President also signed the visitors’ book at Santa’s office.
“I am delighted to visit the Santa Claus village that has continued through the years to enchant children all the world. It really feels like Christmas. With warm greetings and good wishes to the people of Lapland from the people of India,” he wrote in the book.
The Santa Claus Village is an interesting and must-visit tourist spot in Finland. About a 100 years ago, a passer-by started spreading the word about Ear Mountain and the existence of its inhabitants.
Santa wanted to safeguard his secret hiding place and came up with a superb idea that also allowed him to meet people who love Christmas and his many friends who come to greet him. It was around half-a-century ago that Santa Claus started to frequently visit the Arctic Circle near Rovaniemi, which later became his official hometown.
The media delegation accompanying the President also presented a Ganesha idol to the Santa.