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Where to travel in December

If you're looking for a destination in December for that last getaway of the year, here is a bit of inspiration!

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By Marc and Jordi from www.barcelonahelsinki.blogspot.com

Vappu is a traditional festival held on 1 May in Finland – and it’s a day of celebration! It’s also the time when the people of Finland leave the long and harsh winter behind and enthusiastically welcome spring, longer hours of daylight, and their beloved green fields and forests.

But the festival is much more than just that day – it starts the day before, on 30 April. Traditionally, students always take part in this spring festival too by turning it into a very popular carnival (kevään karnevaali, or spring carnival). A usually calm and reserved country fills with people dressing up as different creatures, with drinks in their hands, sharing them with everyone. And the party lasts until the early hours of the morning!

One of the main events, and one of the most crowded and important, takes place on 30 April, around 6 pm, round the statue of Havis Amanda (which symbolises the city of Helsinki emerging from the sea), situated at the entrance to the Esplanadi park and Kauppatori (market square), in the port, in front of the City Hall. A large crowd of students wearing overalls of different colours, representing those of their faculties, wash Havis Amanda and place a large cap on her head.

The cap is the same one that all the students, ylioppislakki, wear when they graduate. They must keep it safe always, because they only get one. Some people even say that it must never be washed. Vappu is one of the times when people of all ages wear their graduation caps.

Vappu is, therefore, a national holiday, when people take to the streets all over the country, where there is music, demonstrations, different celebrations, etc. On 1 May in Helsinki, family and friends get together to have picnics and brunch all over the city, but especially in the Ullanlinnanmäki and Kaivopuisto parks, in the southern part of the city, next to the Baltic Sea.

The typical specialities of Vappu are tippaleipä, a kind of fritter, served with a type of mead, sima. Another tasty speciality is munkki, a kind of doughnut.

Perfect plan to go with friends! Check our flights and sign up!


By Marc and Jordi from www.barcelonahelsinki.blogspot.com

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Travel to Santa Claus home

But, what and where is Lapland? This is a tough question. This territory, above the Artic circle is divided between Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia. However, officially Lapland is where the Sami live. Generally, people refers to Lapland in Finland or Sweden, neither Norway or Russia refer to their territory under this name, and usually Lapland (or Laponian region) is the name used to the union of the Swedish and Finnish areas.

For the matter of this post, we should go to the north of Finland, in the Finnish Lapland. The capital is Rovaniemi, an iconic place in which the line of the Artic circle passes across. This is an area to start wild adventures, among thick forests and wooden houses (mökki) there is the highest mountain in the country, some of its fjords and one of the best places in Finland to see Northern lights and enjoy the amazing view of the sun at midnight.

This area is known for being Santa Claus hometown (Santa in Finnish is Joulupukki). The translation is quite confusing: “Joulu” means Christmas, all right, but “pukki” means, literally, deer or goat. Years ago, people was afraid of him and nobody knows when, eventually, he became the charming elder he is now. The tradition of Joulupukki is from the beginning of the 19th century, even most of the Finnish tradition was lost after the story of Santa Claus was Americanized.

Thousands of letters are sent to the postal code of this town with tones of Christmas whises. They are collected and arranged by Santa’s hard-working assistants, the elfs. Attention! The address is: Santa Claus, 96930 Polar Circle, Finland. When Santa Claus gets to people’s houses he asks "Onkos täällä kilttejä lapsia?" (There are well-behaved kids here?), and kids should answer a convincing yes to receive the gifts.

It’s not only Santa Claus who makes Rovaniemi one of the most visited places in Finland. Around his figure and Christmas traditions, Santa Claus village was built, about 8 kilometers northeast from Rovaniemi. This is a theme park to do some shopping, participate in gifts workshops or simply enjoy a great variety of activities.

You can also visit Joulukka, the place where elves prepare the trip for Santa Claus. You will find out how elves live, you’ll be able to help them bake ginger cookies with Christmas decoration and they will guide you to meet Santa Clause.

Do you want to see what is Santa Claus doing right now? Easy! Santa is so updated on new technologies and he has cameras streaming live his daily work. One camera is outside the office and the other is inside to watch how he gets ready for this special day.

A good option to go from Helsinki to Rovaniemi is taking the high-speed train, which takes only 10 hours. You’ll feel like the main character in the animation movie “Polar Express” who takes this train on Christmas Eve to meet Santa.

But, besides the visit to the land of Santa Clause, there are many other things to do while you are in Helsinki for your winter trip.

Even Finnish people use the sauna all the year, the contrast with the freezing cold outside is the best way to enjoy a hot sauna to get over the cold. Or, for those looking for unforgettable experiences, you should try avantouinti. What is that? There a clubs in Finland to practice ice swimming. They make a hole in the ice of a lake (the hole is called ‘avanto’) and they get in the freezing water after the sauna. They state it has beneficial effects for your health but be careful or you’ll get a cold.

The winter in Finland is the greatest time to take stunning nature photos. The snowy landscapes are unforgettable memories from your trip and the whole country is covered in white most of the winder. Take advantage to the opportunity of practicing winter sports too. Skiing or skating over iced lakes is such a unique experience.

Pictures by Tarja Ryhannen

A place well worth discovering! Check out our flights here.

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Visiting Lapland in winter, or how to be transported back to childhood in a flash

Lapland, in the north of Finland, is not just the birthplace of Santa Claus. It's a magical, fascinating region that offers a whole range of winter activities.

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