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Everyone knows that Christmas is a very busy time for all the folk at Korvatunturi. The elves make gifts, Rudolf teaches new reindeer recruits the secret of flight, Mrs Claus makes sure everyone's bellies are full, and Santa Claus gets ready for the night before Christmas. Apart from Christmastime, Santa mainly lives in Lapland to the rhythm of the reindeer’s year comprising the natural rhythm of northern nature and seasonal reindeer husbandry tasks. So, what exactly is Santa’s year like?
The reindeer year begins in June when the little reindeer claves are born and are given their ear markings. Santa Claus also has his own ear mark he gives to his reindeer to show they are from Korvatunturi (Ear Mountain). Around Midsummer, with the help of a few mosquitoes, the Reindeer Elves gather the reindeer together for marking the calves. This is when Santa’s summertime truly begins. This is the time when Santa packs his backpack and heads for his secret gold claim.
In addition to gold panning, Santa also loves hiking in the Lappish wilderness. The fresh mountain streams are the perfect places to get a good catch of fish, even though just being at one with nature is much more important than any catch. Traversing the countryside is indeed Santa’s favourite way of relaxing: The barren fell landscapes of Lapland, beautiful forests with tall pine trees, wilderness spruce and sparkling rivers and lakes form clean nature that Santa Claus really does appreciate. He spends many nightless nights (Midnight Sun) in nature during the summertime.
As summer gives way to autumn the reindeer calves have also grown immensely. Before the reindeer are rounded up for separation, they still have the chance to savour the early autumn natural produce, such as berries and mushrooms. During this time, Santa also gladly traverses the berry and mushroom forests collecting a huge basket of delights for savouring during the winter. A particularly mouth-watering delicacy for Santa is the fresh cloudberries on traditional Lappish cheese.
In the autumn the Lappish nature is vibrant with the striking colours of autumnal ruska. Before the brightly coloured leaves fall from the trees, Santa embarks on his annual Ruska Trip. On this autumn trip he wanders the wilderness fell regions while pondering global issues and relaxing by the evening fire. The ruska trip is indeed Santa’s last chance to get some decent relaxation before the coming Christmas. In late autumn the animals and nature prepare for the advent of winter by gradually going into winter rest.
In early winter, following the reindeer round-up, the reindeer herdsmen of Lapland along with Santa’s reindeer elves herd their reindeer together to lead them to their winter pastures. This is a time when the reindeer get to rest, yet there are plenty of goings-on at Korvatunturi (Ear Mountain). Santa Claus sits himself down comfortably in his office to read the letters children have sent him, elves are busy working with new wish lists, Mrs Claus takes good care of the Korvatunturi folk, and Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer starts the flight school for new reindeer recruits. On top of all this, elves all over the world are still peeking through windows to make sure all children are being good.
Despite Santa’s time being very busy before Christmas, he still remembers to take good care of himself by taking long naps and keeping fit by skiing cross-country. Living this way gives him sufficient energy to concentrate on reading letters, fixing the sleigh and other Christmas chores. On the evening before Christmas Eve Mrs Claus prepares a grand feast for all, which indeed makes the Korvatunturi folk fall into a very deep sleep. On the morning of Christmas Eve, everyone wakes up early to make sure everything possible has been done and Santa Claus can begin his journey in good spirits. When evening falls on Christmas Eve, Santa Claus and the elves can finally let out a sigh of relief. The mammoth task will soon be over once again and each home will have been given a big helping of Christmas spirit!
After Christmas the hustle and bustle at Korvatunturi begins to settle down – but only for a moment. Soon the happy sounds
of elves of elves playing in the snow on the Korvatunturi hillsides may once again be heard. Santa Claus is also excited by the beautiful winter weather as he engages in one of his favourite pastimes: ice fishing. After this he heats his lakeside sauna and patiently waits as Mrs Claus creates a delicious dinner for all.
At the end of winter the reindeer are so excited as the approaching spring is their best grazing time. Once the spring starts to set in and the reindeer reach their springtime grazing grounds, Santa Claus and the elves make and repair bird houses for migratory birds flying north from the southern heat. Santa Claus also has his very own springtime traditions: each spring before the ice gets too thin, he makes a huge pool in the frozen lake, takes a plunge and gets rid of his winter coat.
Springtime also has another meaning in Korvatunturi; it is the time for spring cleaning! Everyone at Korvatunturi is doing something: elves clean their gift workshops and dig their summertime clothes out from the winter storage, Mrs Claus cleans every nook and cranny of her kitchen and mends all the clothes the mice have gnawed at during the winter, and Santa Claus cleans his office that is quite a mess after the busy goings on of Christmas.
Once the cleaning has been completed at the end of the spring, the Korvatunturi folk retreat to their cabins to remember the previous Christmas and hear Santa’s stories of his great journey. Santa Claus also loves reading, so as evening sets in he is often found sitting by the fire with book in hand. However, every Korvatunturi resident is still waiting for the approaching summer and the start of the next reindeer year.
Palsila, Kari (2006): Joulupukin Vuosi (Santa’s Year). Craps Oy, Espoo.
Reindeer Herders’ Association – ReindeerNET online at http://www.paliskunnat.fi/
Salokorpi, Sinikka (1998): Joulupukin Aapinen (Santa’s ABC).