Finland has always been known for being a very festive country for Christmas.
In Southern and Central Finland, there are decorations and markets selling traditional Scandinavian crafts. But nothing can compare to the North of Finland as the Christmas capital of the world.
Northern Finland, also known as Finnish Sápmi, is one of the biggest provinces in Finland, covering 100,366 square kilometers.
Today, I am gonna be talking about two cities in this beautiful part of Finland and the things you can do there.
The Capital, Rovaniemi
The Capital of Northern Finland is Rovaniemi (and for context, no, this is not the capital of Sápmi. The capital of Sápmi is Karasjok in Norway, so let’s leave that for another article.
Even though Rovaniemi was destroyed in World War 2 by The Soviet Union, today, the city is an important tourist attraction due to its importance to Finnish Culture.
Despite the city’s geographic location being in the Republic of Sápmi (which used to be independent, it was taken by Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia in the 1900s.
Only 0.3% of the population speaks Sámi, and it’s not considered a Sámi city (and what is ironic is that Rovaniemi means “North Meadow” in Sámi. (Again. Just because a city/town is in Sápmi doesn’t mean it is a Sámi city.)
A popular example is Trondheim in Norway, a city that lies a few miles over the border of Sápmi is not a Sámi city.)
In Finnish Folklore, Rovaniemi is considered to be Santa Claus’s home. There are big celebrations during Christmas dedicated to him.
You can even ride a sleight with real live reindeer (it doesn’t fly, though, so you cannot be the next Santa and give presents across the world).
Because Finland is home to the classic Mobile Game Angry Birds, there is a park dedicated to the game where you can see the characters. If you like science, you can also visit the Arctic Science Museum.
If you drive 3 hours north from Rovaniemi, another beautiful place is in Northern Finland. This place is Inari.
If modern isn’t your thing, but you still want to celebrate Christmas the Finnish way, Inari is the place for you.
Inari is the largest municipality (a place controlled by a mayor) in Northern Finland and even Finland as a whole, at 17,333 Square Kilometers. However, only 6,500 People live in Inari.
Unlike Rovaniemi, it is really big but has very few modern buildings. The population is mostly Sámi, with over 7% Speakers of The Sámi language.
In fact, Inari is named after the Inari Sámi language, currently spoken by an estimated 700 to 300 people.
Like in Norway, Finland has a law to have Sámi translations (regardless of how rare the language is, since there are eight alive variations of Sámi and two dead variations) of all children’s media, including books and movies.
Here is a movie trailer for a kids’ movie in the Inari Sámi Language
During the winter, some tourists have described Inari as a “winter wonderland” with a lot of breathtaking sights.
Sometimes, there is too much snow in the national parks that it makes the landscape look unreal and from a Christmas movie. You can also see the Northern Lights and experience Sámi Culture.
Because Inari is huge but mostly rural, there are only 2 major towns in Inari. Inari and Ivalo. The rest of the land is either national parks or Sámi preservations, and there are 12 smaller towns with between 120 and 15 people.
Which place would you like to visit the most?
I am mostly a city person, so I would love to explore Rovaniemi. Still, at the same time, I want to explore Inari because I love Sámi culture and the beautiful nature of the pictures I’ve seen of Inari on Google Maps as I was researching this.
Hope you enjoy this essay and you enjoy learning about Northern Finland!
Hyvästi (goodbye In Finnish)
Uáinip! (Godbye in Inari Sámi)