Santa Claus’ office and workshop sit along the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi, Finland, and from his arctic headquarters Santa spends the year checking his list and entertaining visitors to Santa Claus Village. Nestled in the Lapland woods, the village’s highlight is perhaps Santa Claus’ office, where Saint Nick and his elves hold forth for reviews of children’s behavior and photographs. The Village’s attractions also include a post office, reindeer, a husky park, snowmobile trails, and shopping ranging from jewelry to log houses. Not far away sits Santa Park, an underground labyrinth of caves including an elf school, gingerbread bakery, ice bar, and an Angry Birds Activity Area; for good measure, Santa’s “hidden command center” Joulukka sits in the heart of the forest in the same area.
It may be tempting to dismiss the Finnish holiday attractions as shallow consumer experiences, and a variety of scholars and ideologues routinely scorn places like Santa Claus Village and Disney World or reduce them to yet another post-modern self-delusion. Much of contemporary tourism may be a search for pure diversionary pleasure in such places that embrace spectacle, celebrate patently inauthentic narratives, and offer unadulterated joy. In the midst of the Santa attractions’ imagination of the Yuletide, though, a quite concrete and even dark history exists in an especially fascinating relationship with the theatrical Christmas narrative woven in Santa Claus Village. Read the rest of this entry