Finland Gives Santa Claus Permanent Home
ROVANIEMI, Finland (AP) _ Santa Claus now has a permament home that includes a new workshop and a radio station housed in a log cabin that was built to honor Eleanor Roosevelt.
It was provided by Finnish tourist authorities at Rovaniemi, which is on the edge of the Arctic Circle 1,600 miles from the North Pole and about as close as tourists can get without joining a special expedition.
The official address is 99999 Korvatunturi, Finland. Santa, or someone who looks like him, answers every letter with a return address.
Traditionally, Santa Claus’ origins have been traced to St. Nicholas, but the fat, jolly elf in the white beard and red suit bears no resemblance to the 4th century bishop of Myra in Asia Minor.
His name is a contraction of the Dutch Sint Nikolaas, and the Scandinavian countries have argued among themselves for decades over who owns the part of the Arctic in which he lives.
Risto Hemming of the Finnish Tourist Board said in an interview: ″There have been several attempts to make use of the benevolent figure of Father Christmas. ... We’re marketing goodwill rather than trying to squeeze every penny out of the good idea, and we feel we are on the right track, finally.″ Finland’s Santa has been busy this year. The national carrier Finnair became his, in a sense, when its planes were emblazoned with his chubby likeness.
Many people fill the role of Santa Claus in promoting his new home.
They have traveled to Los Angeles and Singapore. They brought brought 50 children from California and 20 from Switzerland for a personal glimpse of Finland’s 43,000 square miles of Arctic wilderness, which is inhabited by 198,000 people and more than 300,000 reindeer.
In the tradition of Paavo Nurmi and other ″Flying Finns,″ Santas in full gear have run in four international marathons, including the one in New York City.
About 200,000 letters from children in more than 90 countries have arrived this year and are answered with the help of donated computers.
If it’s too late to write, a radio call to a shortwave receiver will reach Santa.
″The station is OH9SCL, and we can guarantee it answers all calls before Christmas,″ said an on-duty Santa Claus who was feeding reindeer this week in the workshop’s backyard.
″You may not believe it, but all of this was started by former U.S. first lady Eleanor Roosevelt when she visited Finland in 1950.″
A small log cabin was built to honor Mrs. Roosevelt, who had campaigned for aid to Finnish children after World War II.
The cabin, just five minutes from the Rovaniemi airport, soon became an attraction for tourists visiting reindeer country. It has developed into a gateway to Finnish Lapland and grants a certificate to everyone who visits it.
Mrs. Roosevelt’s cabin now houses the radio station. In addition to the workshop, several small stores have been built.
A Christmas play is performed each day, moving inside when the temperature falls below -13 Fahrenheit.