As awkward questions go, “Is Father Christmas real?”It ranks right up there alongside the worst.
So when my seven-year-old son Elliott blurts it out on the packed flight en route to Rovaniemi in Finland – AKA the hometown of the big man himself – I find myself flapping about, trying to exert damage limitation.
Elliott and Molly, four, are on the brink of becoming Santa cynics, so this year is likely to be the last time that Elliott and Molly will truly experience a trip in Lapland.
There’s a lot to take in, but Canterbury Travel’s three-night Magical Interlude tour includes flights, transfers, activities, full-board accommodation, snowsuits and boots as a complete package, which is perfect for stressed-out parents wanting to plan a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Arriving in Finland, there’s a 90-minute coach transfer, but we’re kept entertained by our tour guide Tasha, who teaches us the words and actions to the crazily catchy Elf Song – which we’ll go on to sing approximately 284 times over the course of our trip.
The song features each of Father Christmas’ helpers — Snowy Bowy, Wendy Wood, Tricky Dicky, Noisy Nod and Speedy Sam — who we’ll meet over the next few days to give us clues on his location, while we try some snow-based activities along the way.
Following a stop-off for heavy-duty snowsuits and boots, we arrive in the ski village of Pyhä, at the bottom of a huge slope, 70 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
The log cabins are thickly covered in snow and dotted with pine trees.
Pyhä Luxury Cottages are sleek, but ideal for families, with a small kitchen, floor-to-ceiling glass-panelled room with log burner, and a low-lit bathroom complete with sauna.
The heated porch is perfect for drying clothes, and there’s a sledge on hand to transport the children around, which is a great touch.
After settling in, we walk to Huttuhippu restaurant five minutes away, where we’ll have breakfast and a three-course dinner each evening.
I have to try the reindeer fillet with game sauce and rowanberry brûlée with salted caramel ice cream.
The kids brave the sautéed reindeer too, served with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam, and it is a surprising hit.
The next morning, we’re tasked with finding Father Christmas. This is a surprise because December’s daylight hours are only 10am to 2pm.
We are taken by coach to a rustic, snowy cabin where we can play with the elves. This is a favorite spot for the children.
Next, it’s off to Santa’s very own post office.
We had “just missed”We stumble upon Snowy Bowy as his assistant, and he is the man.
Each child was asked to write a letter before the trip to Father Christmas.
In the most magical experience, an elf working away in the post office suddenly finds Elliott’s under a pile of post.
He is left speechless. Next is a husky safari.
REINDEER LOOKS LIKE A REINDEER
We enjoy hot berry juice and a wood-fired fire as we learn about the dogs.
Exhilarating is zooming through the dark, snowy forest at sunset.
I must admit, I am a little skeptical about my sledging abilities. I try to hold on tight, but the huskies keep it under control.
Afterwards, we drop into a nearby reindeer farm to feed the deer and learn about the traditional Sámi culture – the people who have tended the animals for hundreds of years.
We enjoy a beautiful reindeer sleigh ride through woods as a perfect way to end the day.
We meet up with a group the next morning for a thrilling game of snow tobogganing followed by a tug-of-war.
After a hearty lunch of meatballs & mash at a Luosto log-cabin, we travel to the forest’s middle for the main event.
The beauty of riding a snowmobile driven sleigh and climbing a pine-lined snowy track is simply breathtaking.
We are greeted by the Elfs when we see a large wooden house.
We meet Mrs Claus who leads us to a magical portal.
Guess what’s next! Elliott’s face when he claps eyes on Father Christmas will stay with me forever.
And of course, he has both Molly and Elliott’s letters that they had written to him a few weeks earlier asking for the present that Santa has now in his hands!
(Don’t tell the kids, but parents have to bring the present, gift-wrapped, and the powers that be will ensure Santa gets it in time for your visit to the house.)
After a one-on-one with Father Christmas, guests 15 years and older can take a snowmobile out for a spin, up and down a snowy hill – terrifying for me, thrilling for my husband Mark!
Mini Ski-Doos are also available for the kids to enjoy. A cup of hot chocolate at the cabin is a perfect way to finish the day.
As they tell the story of Santa’s visit, the children are excited.
The next morning, we are presented with certificates for finding Father Christmas, plus a CD of Elf Song (I wasn’t sure whether to feel grateful or weary about that particular gift!).
After three nights of trying to find Santa, it is time for me to breathe a sigh. The coach transport back brings me relief. Elliott has returned as a fully registered member of the “I believe” club.
It was done.
Adventures to Lapland for a family of four cost from £4,099 for two nights with Canterbury Travel (Canterburytravel.com).