The Geordie Starfish

I’m sure that anyone who has ever worked with children will agree that the nice, quiet and polite children are rarely the ones you remember. Instead we remember the annoying children, the ones who misbehave, the ones that make us laugh, the ones with interesting or outgoing personalities and the ones who gives us a reason to remember them. Out of the hundreds of children I met whilst working as an elf in Lapland I can only remember a handful of them in some way and I could count on one hand the number of names I could match to those memories but, while my memories of most of the children fade into a blur of blue and red snowsuits, there are a select few children and moments that I will never forget.

I will always remember the first child I met outside of Santa’s cabin in the Finnish wilderness. Snowflake and I were inside the cabin debating which of us should greet the first family when the reindeer drawn sleigh appeared from amongst the snow covered trees outside the cabin. Being the closest elf to the door of the cabin, Santa asked me to go outside and greet the first child. I stepped outside to meet the quiet seven year old boy. He was an only child and had come to visit Santa with his mum and dad. His name was unusual but I can clearly remember it. That little boy is the only quiet and polite child I can really remember meeting. It’s not that he was the only nice child who visited Santa last year, it’s just that the nice children, unfortunately, aren’t very memorable and they all blur into one on the nice list. That one nice child stands out in my memory because his family were the first guests that I met on MY first day as Santa’s little helper and that’s a memory I will always cherish.

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Ten Things I Learned in Lapland

It’s been exactly a year since I boarded the plane and embarked on my arctic adventure of being one of Santa’s elves in Lapland. My friends and I have been reminiscing a lot recently and I thought I’d share ten of the things I learned whilst living in the Arctic Circle. Some are useful tips, some are interesting facts and some are just funny or random things you’d only find out if you’d been living in a tiny isolated village during winter in the Arctic Circle.

1. iPhones don’t do well in cold weather, the same goes for your fancy pants cameras with changeable lenses. In the cold, anything with a battery will lose power very quickly so if you’re on your way to meet Santa keep your phone in a pocket close to your body to keep it warm rather than checking your tinder matches.

2. The ice in Lapland isn’t actually slippy unless the temperature rises to above -5c and snow falls as sleet or icy rain. The powdery snow in Lapland is normally very dry so, when the roads are ploughed leaving behind a sheet of ice, you may expect it to be slippery but 90% of the time you can run across the road in ugg boots and shorts without fear of falling over.

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Christmas and New Year in Lapland

It feels as though Christmas and New Year have flown by faster than a shooting star and, even though I’ve spent this festive period in Santa’s homeland, I’ve been feeling surprisingly un-Christmassy this year! The run up to Christmas was obviously the busiest time for us at work. It’s also been Christmas since November so, when the real thing finally rolled round, I barely noticed! The only reason I knew it was Christmas Eve is because my advent calendar ran out!

On the day before Christmas Eve, we did an epic scale Secret Santa with all thirty of the people living in our house. The rules were to buy one present, spending no more than €5 and to beg borrow or steal something else. My Secret Santa gave me a Finland rubber duck, which I loved, and a bobble hat he’d found while tidying up the suits and boots room! Creative begged borrowed or stolen gifts ranged from a French baguette to stolen socks!


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The Northern Lights

In theory, it’s possible for the Northern Lights to be out every other day as long as the sky is clear. In reality, I’ve been living in the arctic circle for seven weeks, I’ve seen the lights around ten times and only three times have been really good, so when they do appear it’s still as exciting for us as it is for the guests. Every day there is a forecast for the Northern Lights, similar to a weather forecast, which uses a numbered scale to predict the chances of a good light show. There have been a few days with a forecast of 5 which, providing that the sky is clear, is very good, but it’s often ended up cloudy in the evening and we haven’t seen anything. Then there have been other days when they appear in the sky when you are least expecting them.

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Husky Cuddles and More Snowmobiling

Sometimes the days when you have a boring task or something that may seem like hard work can turn out to be the most fun. Shovelling snow might not be at the top of your list of fun jobs to do but after countless days of wrapping presents and long hours in a stuffy cabin it was refreshing to be outdoors again doing some real work. Nine of us headed out to repair the lumps and bumps in the snowmobile tracks at Marjavaara to make it smoother for the sleigh. Shovelling snow onto the tracks is tiring work but being out with the team is fun and it doesn’t take long if everyone puts in a little bit of hard work. There’s even time for a bit of messing about having sleigh rides on shovels and throwing snow at each other.

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Walking in a Winter Wonderland

I’ve now been living in the arctic circle for a month but I still act like a child whenever it snows. The snow in Lapland is now knee-deep in places and hilariously difficult to walk in when you’re away from the tracks! The resort is now fully operational and we are regularly performing our elf show and spending days meeting children in Santa’s cabin in Marjavvaara. Every time we are in Marjavaara we get taken to our cabin in a sleigh, life in Lapland is truly magical. It’s amazing to see the kids believing in Santa and the magic of Christmas and to be able to spread Christmas cheer. I will never forget the first child I met outside Santa’s cabin, it was as much of a magical experience for me as it is for the children.

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Two weeks ago I moved to Lapland to be one of Santa’s little helpers in the village of Karesuando/Karesuvanto which is on the Sweden/Finland border within the arctic circle. The picture perfect church by the river in Karesuando is the church you see in the Coca Cola advert. The temperature at the moment is unseasonably high for this time of year, averaging around -6, but this is still enough for the river dividing Finland and Sweden to freeze and it’s cold enough to experience the hairs in your nose freezing as you breathe in!

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