After a visit to the Arctic home of Santa and his elves, Bev Wood is now a believer.
I believe in Santa.
And you will too if you are lucky enough to meet him in his own home town. He is just as friendly and jolly in real life as I had expected. It is commonly believed that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, but I can vouch for the fact that he lives a few thousand kilometres south, right on the edge of the Arctic Circle. It was there in his village, 8km north of the city of Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland that I met him.
Queues of people were waiting to see the man himself when I visited. He was surrounded by his busy, friendly elves, one of whom ushered me into his private sanctuary where Santa had time to speak to me with only a photographer on hand to record this historic meeting.
For such a busy man he still had time to ask where I was from, to comment on the distance I'd travelled and to wish me well. Of course his knowledge of the countries, towns and villages of the world must be extensive because he has been everywhere. With his busy schedule he would need to be exacting with his directions.
Once I'd said goodbye to Santa I moved on to a well-stocked shop. Here more of his cheery elves were happy to take a stack of euros in exchange for the photograph and the small items I'd chosen from an amazing array of Christmas souvenirs.
The village has a selection of shops overflowing with tempting goods to entice shoppers, as well as cafes and a very busy Post Office. I wrote postcards to be franked with the special Arctic symbol.
I ordered a letter from Santa to be posted to my granddaughter at home in New Zealand to arrive in time for Christmas. I handed out yet more euros but it was worth it as I knew it would make one little girl very excited.
Santa Claus will be whirling around the world at Christmastime as usual but his village will remain open. It is a sign of his magic that he can be visited there in his home any day of the year regardless of where and when he is travelling. There seems to be no rest for this very busy man and his cheerful band of elves. But his reindeer looked happy munching lazily on the edge of the village after their hectic world travels. No doubt they need to get their strength up for their next whirlwind trip around the globe.
The last thing I did before Ieaving Santa's home was to stand astride the line painted on the ground, marking the spot where the Arctic Circle runs through the village. This was another photo opportunity, but this time with my own camera.
My visit to this special place has been well-documented.
There are cottages on site, a snow hotel or igloos for those who choose to stay, or hotels and cottages in nearby villages or in the city of Rovaniemi. Plenty of other activities in the area keep the tourists happy: snow-mobile rides, husky-sled tours or riding on sleighs pulled by reindeer are all magical experiences in the snowy landscape. And if you're lucky the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, may put on a spectacular show for you.
It was February when I visited and the village was beautiful. Deep snow surrounded the attractive buildings, Christmas music merrily played and lights twinkled on the tall Christmas tree. Everyone was happy and excited, children and adults alike. It is indeed a magical place and I enjoyed every moment of it, and even though my wallet was considerably lighter after the visit it was an experience to put joy in my heart.
flies daily between Auckland and Stockholm via Dubai with connections on Scandinavian Airlines to Helsinki. Economy Class return fares start from $2519.
For more information on Santa's village, go to santaclausvillage.info.