Will I See the Northern Lights on my Lapland holiday ?

Will I See the Northern Lights on my Lapland holiday?

This is a question that is asked time and time again by those going on a Lapland holiday. The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis as they are more accurately known, are a natural phenomenon and appear in the Lapland sky between late August and April. 

I've been to Lapland 8+ times and have only seen the Northern Lights in their full glory on a few occasions.  Much of the time, the sky has been cloudy and obscured any chances of seeing them.

However, the best sighting that I've personally had was in Hetta, near Enontekio, where I can only describe them as like a "genie in a bottle" with great swirls of greens and reds.  Absolutely fantastic, and a perfect way to end a Lapland holiday.

Lapland Santapark in Rovaniemi

If you've read any of my previous articles you will be aware that I am not a fan of taking a Christmas Lapland holiday in Rovaniemi.  However, I was invited to Lapland during December last year to experience the new Rovaniemi "product" from Esprit Holidays.

I was not holding out much hope, but I went there with an open mind, and was not disappointed with what I was shown.  I'm still not impressed with Rovaniemi, and certainly wouldn't stay in the two "town centre" hotels, but the arrangements for the Lapland activities were extremely well prepared.

I also wasn't looking forward to the grand finale - a "Gala Dinner" at SantaPark.  I have been primed over the past years that Santapark was an awful amusement park built into the side of a hill (reminicent of a nuclear bunker), with poor quality rides for expectant children, and tacky souvenirs.

I was pleasantly surprised.  Yes, it is a large "bunker" builty into the side of a hill, but it was definitely better than I was expecting.

The Esprit Holidays "Wonder of Santa" and "Dream of Santa" Lapland holiday all visit Santapark (if you take the full board option) and they have arranged for exclusive access during the meal.  There is a fun stage show with Elves dancing and singing to various Christmas favourites.  This is a surefire hit for the younger children.

There are also a number of other activities, such as cookie making and decorating, Elf school and a small ride through a model Elf World.  Don't expect a Disney style theme park, but set your expectations at a reasonable level, and remember it's aimed at the children, not you !

Reindeer, Lapland and Rudolph

Reindeer
Reindeer are everywhere in Lapland! Traditionally it is the Sami people who tend to these and herd them around the Lapland region. There are two types living in the Lapland region, namely ‘Forest reindeer’ and Mountain/wild reindeer’. Both Mountain and Forest reindeer species are mainly found on the Finnish/Russian border, although Forest reindeer are also found in central/southern Finland.  
 
The reindeer of Lapland are of course famous for pulling Father Christmas’ sleigh at Christmas time. Santa is said to have eight reindeer (or nine including Rudolph) which are often said to fly on Christmas Eve; their names come from the 1823 poem ‘A visit from St. Nicholas’ where they are called Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder (later changed to Donner) and Blixem (later changed to Blitzen).
Dasher is said to lead the sleigh (before Rudolph) and is meant to be the speediest reindeer of the pack. Dancer is the second reindeer at the front and is considered to be the graceful reindeer.
Prancer is the third reindeer and is on the second row. He is thought to be the most powerful reindeer.
Vixen is the companion of Prancer and is positioned next to him on the second row, she is beautiful and also powerful.
Comet is the fifth reindeer and is said to be on the third row. He brings wonder and happiness to children when Father Christmas flies over everyone's houses.
Cupid is the sixth reindeer and is also on the third row, she brings love and joy to children.
Donner is the seventh reindeer and is said to be on the fourth row.
Lastly, Blitzen is the eighth reindeer and stands next to Donner on the fourth row. She is the "lightning reindeer, but is sometimes portrayed as a male.
“With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles, his coursers they came,
And he whistled and shouted and called them by name:

Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”
Our famous friend Rudolph was later added to Santa’s eight reindeer due to the popular Christmas song and story; ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’, written by Robert L. May to be given to children at Christmas time.
 
In the story, Rudolph is the son of Donner. When Rudolph is born he has an unusually red nose that glows. The other reindeers tease Rudolph because of his unusually bright nose but their opinions soon change when Santa promotes Rudolph and his red nose to the front of the pack on a particularly foggy Christmas Eve:
 
“Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer 
had a very shiny nose. 
And if you ever saw him, 
you would even say it glows. 

All of the other reindeer 
used to laugh and call him names. 
They never let poor Rudolph 
join in any reindeer games. 

Then one foggy Christmas Eve 
Santa came to say: 
"Rudolph with your nose so bright, 
won't you guide my sleigh tonight?" 

Then all the reindeer loved him 
as they shouted out with glee, 
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, 
you'll go down in history!”

Lapland

Lapland Overview
Lapland is a beautifully picturesque region in northern Europe mostly north of the Arctic Circle. Lapland spans across four countries: Finland, Norway, north Sweden and Russia, and is traditionally thought to be the home of Father Christmas!
Western Lapland is an area of fjords, deep valleys, glaciers, and mountains; the highest point being Mount Kebnekaise in Swedish Lapland. Further east, the terrain is low and flat with many marshes and lakes; the largest being Lake Inari in Finnish Lapland.
The province of Lapland has eighteen regions: EnontekiöInari, Keminmaa, Kittilä, Kolari, Muonio, Pelkosenniemi, PelloPosio, Province de Rovaniemi, Ranua, Salla, Savukoski, Simo, Sodankylä, Tervola, Utsjoki, Ylitornio; with Lapland’s major cities being Rovaniemi, Kemi, Tornio and Kemijarvi. The native inhabitants of these Lapland provinces and cities are called the ‘Sami people’ who hold a dual identity with the region of Lapland and their individual country of residence (either Finland, Norway, Sweden or Russia).