Four days in Lapland turned Jane Bostock from the Grinch into a fully-paid up member of the Elf Appreciation Society. Yep, it’s that magic.
For a while, I have had my heart set on gazing up and watching the Northern Lights dance above my bobble-hatted head. My little man is the perfect age to have his mind blown, so it was agreed – this year we do Lapland.
As the weeks went on and the holiday got closer, my resolve wavered. Lapland has roughly two hours of ‘grey light’ and average temps are well below the zero, and I was dragging a four-year-old with me. I had visions of us, frozen on the tundra, mistaken for ice sculptures.
I must also admit to having a heart of stone when it comes “enforced joy”. So, imagine the horror that overcame me when we were met from the plane by an ‘elf’ from Barnsley. His job, it seemed, would be to fill every waking moment with noise.
On the journey to the hotel, we drank in the beauty of Lapland, as the bus thundered across a road we could no longer see for packed snow; the kind of amount of snow that would render the UK uninhabitable. There was occasional reindeer attempting to be roadkill, fir trees uniformly lining either side of the road, their boughs weighed down with plumes of fluffy snow. Now add to the mix an elf shouting, “Who wants to hear a joke?” every four-and-a-half seconds. Followed by a rather underwhelming Eye Spy session. Let’s face it; it either starts with S or T. My inner Grinch had been awakened.
We arrived around 2pm – it was already almost dark – grabbed a plastic sledge and wandered. That’s when I realised that this was the most beautiful place I had ever seen: log cabins dotted around frozen lakes, pretty much untouched by anyone trying to capitalise on the place, and so quiet. It was below freezing but somehow felt warmer than the wet bone chill home has to offer. Perhaps an hour or so in, I noticed that all three of us had not stopped smiling. My little boy was eating his own body mass in snow.
The next day was an excursion to husky driving. On the coach. Our elf shouts, “Who wants to sing a song?” and the dads in the back shout a weary “No”. This was inevitably overturned like a rigged ballot and the songs began… and seemingly never ended.
When we got our one-on-one with Santa, he looked so real you could swing off his beard.
We arrived in the wilderness, given a brief talk about how to “drive” and then given our sledges with huskies, who were in full wolf mode, howling, barking, fighting and mounting one another. My anxiety levels about being entrusted to steer a pack of wolves across ice with the most treasured people in my life as passengers was fairly high. Initially, I was standing fully on the breaks as the dogs clawed their way forward. When I relaxed, I nearly upturned my family a couple of times, then got a bit better and it was amazing. Gliding over a vast frozen lake. A tantalising hint of Northern Lights shrouded behind thick snow clouds.
There must be an abundance of salmon in Finland, as it seemed to be the staple diet of said hounds. This also meant when they took a dump, you flippin’ knew about it.
The next day we were elfed to the ice hotel, bounced on ice beds, slid down ice slides, sat on ice chairs (not such a good idea) and drank vodka out of ice glasses. Not the little one, obvs. It was like walking through a kaleidoscope fridge freezer. Awesome.
Then, finally, the day arrived – we were to meet the big man himself. We were elf escorted, of course, to yet another expansive frozen lake, past an incredibly large and misshapen snowman. Past trees lit by candles, where reindeers and sleighs awaited us. We tobogganed and roasted marshmallows on an open fire, decorated gingerbread and made tree decorations as we waited for the meet and greet. It was a modest abode for such a famous fella. And when we got our one-on-one with Santa, he looked so real you could swing off his beard.
Remember me? Old misery guts? I was crying, like I had finally met John Taylor from Duran Duran. The deal was done, small child issues letter of demands and St Nick obliges with a gift, and then we had more marshmallows and sleigh rides and even another glimpse of the Northern Lights and an impromptu game of football on the frozen lake.
By the end of this four days of joy, I really did not want to leave. I was working out if I could be an elf myself, allbeit a surly one. The whole time, the smiles never left our faces. We had ingested pure magic for days. On the coach to the airport I got involved with elf games with gusto, as if to make amends for my former unChristmassy thoughts.
The airport itself is the size of a Nandos and was chaos, but I was in festive delirium. But, of course, you always get brought back to earth at some point. A couple of comments in my baggage queue had the desired effect. “Yeah, it was OK, but the Huskies were not fluffy enough, not like the ones you see on TV” or “Yeah, the Santa visit was OK but it wasn’t that magical.”
Not magical? Did you just read my description? Candles, frozen lakes, elves, marshmallows, reindeer. I can only imagine said whingebag expected Paul Daniels to stand by their side and shout ”not a lot” while he pulled a rabbit out of their arse.
So there you go. Do Lapland if you can. Tell endless jokes. Sing your heart out. Merry Christmas!
A human, like you.