Santa’s making a list and checking it twice — all from his official headquarters in the Arctic Circle in Finland.

Yep, Santa’s office is in Rovaniemi, in Finnish Lapland, just inside the Arctic Circle. And you thought it was at the North Pole!

According to Finnish lore, Santa Claus, or Joulupukki in Finnish, lives on Ear Mountain, or Korvatunturi, which is in the far north of Finnish Lapland. Although all Finns know he lives there and can easily find the 1,585-foot mountain on a map, no one knows the secret road that leads to his home and workshops — except Santa, his elves and his reindeer.

It is called Ear Mountain because of its mysterious properties that allow Santa and the elves to hear children all over the world and know whether they’re being naughty or nice, and what they’d like to have for Christmas. Santa and the elves write their observations in notebooks throughout the year. Shortly before Christmas, Santa studies the notebooks and chooses gifts for the kind and good children.

The Arctic Circle

Long ago, Santa decided he needed to meet people more than just one night a year, yet he wanted to maintain the tranquility of his home on Ear Mountain. He and his friends began looking for the perfect place to build his own village, where people from all over the globe could come and visit him.

Santa Claus selected a site near Rovaniemi, near the point where the highway to the north crosses the Arctic Circle. He built his village close to a city with an international airport and a railway station so visitors could get there easily, because they can’t fly there on a reindeer sleigh like he can.

The site first came to public attention in 1950 when it was selected for the construction of the Arctic Circle Cabin to be used by former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, on her visit to the area. Lapland and the town of Rovaniemi were among the first recipients of postwar aid provided by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), the predecessor of UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). A well-known humanitarian, Mrs. Roosevelt came to see the postwar reconstruction of the area.

Her visit and the cabin turned out to be the beginning of Arctic Circle tourism, although the idea went back at least 20 years earlier when a stake was erected in the vicinity to serve as a photo stop for tourists. The first Arctic Circle postmark was issued in the cabin — a tradition that continues to this day.

Just as it was in the mid-1900s, crossing the Arctic Circle is still a special occasion that creates a lasting memory. The Arctic Circle was a logical choice for Santa’s village.

Christmas Year-Round

Santa Claus Village is just five miles north of Rovaniemi, but going there is like entering another world. Open 365 days a year, the theme is Christmas all year long. You can visit with Santa personally, and even have a photo or video made with him in his office.

He has brought some of his many notebooks from his home on Ear Mountain. Visitors can see them neatly stacked on the office bookshelves, but no one is allowed to read the contents except Santa and his elves.

There is plenty to see and do at the village any time of year. From sleighs pulled by reindeer to sleds pulled by huskies to snowmobiles, the options are varied. And, of course, there is shopping galore, and a variety of restaurants and coffee shops. Naturally, all stores are staffed by elves in Christmas attire.

In the main building, called Christmas House, where you can meet Santa, take time to browse through the three Christmas-theme exhibits, including Finnish Christmas heritage and Lapland’s Joulupukki (Santa Claus), Christmas traditions from around the world, and the elves’ toy factory.

Nearby is SantaPark, the home cavern of Santa Claus. The Christmas spirit abounds in a network of underground caves, which are open from November to January and June to August.

Special Postmarks

One of the busiest places in Santa Claus Village is the Santa Claus Main Post Office, an official branch of the Finnish postal system.

All items mailed here are franked with the special Arctic Circle postmark that originated in the log cabin built for Eleanor Roosevelt; the cabin still stands in front of the current post office.

Since 1985, this post office has received some 16 million letters; in recent years, more than 500,000 letters from 198 countries pass through the office annually. Santa and his elves open each one and respond to most.

The letters sometimes include more than a wish list; children send drawings, photographs, small gifts or cookies. They often write about their everyday lives and their countries, and ask lots of questions about Santa and the elves and reindeer. Some letters are heart-wrenching for Santa and the elves — ones written from war zones asking only for peace or ones asking for a family member to be cured of a serious illness, for example.

People also pass through this office — some 500,000 visitors annually, 90 percent of them from outside Finland. The shop offers a wide variety of Christmas-themed items — cards, stamps, calendars, toys and more.

Letters From Santa

Possibly the most popular item is the letter from Santa, available in 13 languages, which you can order at the post office or online at www.posti.fi/goshopping. Also from this link, you can design a Christmas postcard and send it by email, or order special Finnish Christmas stamps.

The address to send letters to Santa is: Santa Claus, Arctic Circle, FI-96930 Rovaniemi, Finland.

To help handle the volume of correspondence, Santa’s helpers at the Greeting Center can also send letters from Santa, or can assist you in sending customized letters with the special postmark. Visit www.santagreeting.net for more information.

Where to Stay, What to Do

The nearby town of Rovaniemi has a variety of hotels, many with a Santa theme. It is also possible to stay right at Santa Claus Village, to completely immerse yourself in the Christmas experience. There are cabins in the Holiday Village (www.santaclausholidayvillage.fi) and the igloo hotel — built entirely of snow and ice — in Snowman World (www.snowmanworld.fi/snowmanworld-igloo-hotel-rovaniemi-lapland/accommodation/).

Although Rovaniemi’s popular claim to fame is Santa Claus, there is much more to see and do in the capital of Finnish Lapland. Outdoor sports — in every season — are a prime attraction. From foraging for mushrooms and berries in summer to ice fishing and skiing in winter, there is something to do outside all year-round.

A number of safari companies offer tours for hiking, fishing, camping, traditional sauna, winter’s Northern Lights, summer’s Midnight Sun, and more. You can visit a reindeer farm or a husky park. Or spend an afternoon making traditional Lappish jewelry from reindeer antlers and other natural materials at the Hornwork studio of Irene and Ari Kangasniemi (www.hornwork.fi).

There’s a cultural side to the city, too. Don’t miss the Arktikum with its Provincial Museum of Lapland and the Arctic Centre. The Korundi House of Culture offers music, art and events, and houses the Chamber Orchestra of Lapland and the Rovaniemi Art Museum.

The Arctic Circle is a line on the map. But it is more than just a geographical designation; it is also called the border of hastiness, where regular time changes to the magical time of Santa Claus, elves and reindeer. Once you experience the charms of Finnish Lapland, you’ll understand why Santa chose to locate his headquarters here.

Before You Go:

Santa Claus Village: www.santaclausvillage.info

Santa Claus Office: www.santaclauslive.com

Santa Claus Post Office: www.santaclaus.posti.fi

SantaPark: www.santapark.com

Rovaniemi: www.visitrovaniemi.fi

For more information on a variety of topics, visit www.santatelevision.com. This is the website for Santa’s Internet television, and includes useful links to info about Santa, Lapland, Finland and Christmas around the world.