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"Every artist was once an amateur." -- Emerson

385--Finland (Suomi): A visit to Santa on the Arctic Cirlce
@ CherieSpotting     Jun 26 2007 - 12:37 PST
cherie writes: My birthday began in Rovaniemi, Finland where we saw the midnight sun (a few minutes early!) Being on the Arctic Circle, the sun “touched down” at 11:54 and it was the first time I saw the “almost” midnight sun.

When morning came, my friends and I went to visit Santa Claus because celebrating Christmas once a year simply isn’t enough.

Finland says that Santa’s official office is in Rovaniemi, which means Santa lives right on top of the Arctic Circle. There’s a line painted on the ground to prove it!

So far Santa has received 11.8 million letters from 195 different countries. Santa’s “helpers” sort the mail by country. Children send about 32,000 letters a day to Santa at Christmas time, and Santa can read many of them himself since he speaks 10 languages.

After sitting on Santa’s lap (he sang me Happy Birthday) our gang headed south to Keuruu, Finland where we camped by a spectacular lake. We pretended it was Christmas and exchanged gifts and feasted in the true holiday spirit (we ate until our bellies hurt!) Then a few friends decorated a cabin and threw me a surprise birthday party! It was Christmas and my birthday on the same day!

Click on each picture to see it full size.

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Cherie celebrated her birthday visiting Santa at his main "Post Office" on the Arctic Circle in Finland.

Cherie celebrated her birthday visiting Santa at his main "Post Office" on the Arctic Circle in Finland.

Did you know that Santa speaks 10 different languages?

Did you know that Santa speaks 10 different languages?

Here's where Santa's Main Post Office is in Rovaniemi, Finland.

Here's where Santa's Main Post Office is in Rovaniemi, Finland.

Cherie crosses the Arctic Circle. The crowd goes wild.  (What crowd?)

Cherie crosses the Arctic Circle. The crowd goes wild. (What crowd?)

In Rovaniemi, the Arctic Circle really is a circle on the ground.

In Rovaniemi, the Arctic Circle really is a circle on the ground.

Cherie and Brenda cross over the Arctic Circle to the land of the midnight sun.

Cherie and Brenda cross over the Arctic Circle to the land of the midnight sun.

Santa has an entire village around his office.  You can ask Santa to mail your loved ones letters at Christmas!

Santa has an entire village around his office. You can ask Santa to mail your loved ones letters at Christmas!

Santa has gotten 11.8 million letters from 195 different countries delivered to him in Rovaniemi.

Santa has gotten 11.8 million letters from 195 different countries delivered to him in Rovaniemi.

Cherie, Julie and Kosta.

Cherie, Julie and Kosta.

Cherie and Brenda.

Cherie and Brenda.

A box of letters to Santa Claus.

A box of letters to Santa Claus.

Cherie peeks at Santa's mail.

Cherie peeks at Santa's mail.

Santa organizes his letters by the country they come from.

Santa organizes his letters by the country they come from.

Santa has got to be organized if he's going to answer all those letters.  Santa gets about 32,000 letters a day at Christmas time.

Santa has got to be organized if he's going to answer all those letters. Santa gets about 32,000 letters a day at Christmas time.

One of Santa's helpers sorts the mail.

One of Santa's helpers sorts the mail.

Santa is a busy man all year long!

Santa is a busy man all year long!

Cherie crosses the Arctic Circle one last time!

Cherie crosses the Arctic Circle one last time!

After a long drive south we arrive at our cabins in Keuruu, Finland. *Photo by Ashley.

After a long drive south we arrive at our cabins in Keuruu, Finland. *Photo by Ashley.

Cherie and Brenda go for a swim in the lake.

Cherie and Brenda go for a swim in the lake.

The sun is warm but the lake is cold. *Photo by Debbie.

The sun is warm but the lake is cold. *Photo by Debbie.

The trees bask in the sun.

The trees bask in the sun.

Gypses!

Gypses!

Julie, Alicia, Dom, Cherie and Brenda in Keuruu.

Julie, Alicia, Dom, Cherie and Brenda in Keuruu.

Ladies in the Finnish light.

Ladies in the Finnish light.

Did the trees get a sunburn?

Did the trees get a sunburn?

Brad carries his suitcase and his ball of beer to his cabin.  He will only open one of these items tonight.  (Guess which one?)

Brad carries his suitcase and his ball of beer to his cabin. He will only open one of these items tonight. (Guess which one?)

Ashley makes her famous "sangria" for the whole group.

Ashley makes her famous "sangria" for the whole group.

Treena, Alicia and Julie help prepare tonight's feast!

Treena, Alicia and Julie help prepare tonight's feast!

Dion, the SuperCook, prepares the chicken. *Photo by Desiree.

Dion, the SuperCook, prepares the chicken. *Photo by Desiree.

Laura watches over the potatoes. *Photo by Desiree.

Laura watches over the potatoes. *Photo by Desiree.

Brenda, Cherie and Mel start with the soup course. *Photo by Desiree.

Brenda, Cherie and Mel start with the soup course. *Photo by Desiree.

Leigh likes his Christmas present. *Photo by Ashley.

Leigh likes his Christmas present. *Photo by Ashley.

Steph can't help but smile at his gift from his Secret Santa (Brenda) *Photo by Ashley.

Steph can't help but smile at his gift from his Secret Santa (Brenda) *Photo by Ashley.

The guys seem to like their magazines...perhaps that's why they are mysteriously missing from later photos. (smile) *Photo by Ashley.

The guys seem to like their magazines...perhaps that's why they are mysteriously missing from later photos. (smile) *Photo by Ashley.

A fluffy toy for Jo. *Photo by Ashley.

A fluffy toy for Jo. *Photo by Ashley.

Surprise!  Some friends decorate a cabin and surprise me with balloons and a beer bong.

Surprise! Some friends decorate a cabin and surprise me with balloons and a beer bong.

The gang who organized my suprise party!

The gang who organized my suprise party!

Cherie is handed a knife and pops all the balloons.

Cherie is handed a knife and pops all the balloons.

Brad with his Finlandia Vodka.

Brad with his Finlandia Vodka.

The cabin decorated with 36 balloons.

The cabin decorated with 36 balloons.

The guys with the ball of beer.

The guys with the ball of beer.

Ryan and Justine.

Ryan and Justine.

This is a real drink called: Ladies Magic Cocktail.

This is a real drink called: Ladies Magic Cocktail.

Craig, Julie and Dom.

Craig, Julie and Dom.

Debbie and Thu.

Debbie and Thu.

The gang.

The gang.

The midnight sun.

The midnight sun.

The sun has "touched down."  Wait a few minutes and it will rise again.

The sun has "touched down." Wait a few minutes and it will rise again.

Kosta, Justine and Ryan. *Photo by Desiree.

Kosta, Justine and Ryan. *Photo by Desiree.

My birthday sunset.  I guess you can't ask for more than that. *Photo by Brad.

My birthday sunset. I guess you can't ask for more than that. *Photo by Brad.

Desiree and Brad.

Desiree and Brad.

Brad and Nicole.

Brad and Nicole.

Nicole, step away from the Absinthe.

Nicole, step away from the Absinthe.

Brad meets the Absinthe.  (Later Brad regrets this meeting.)

Brad meets the Absinthe. (Later Brad regrets this meeting.)

Brad decides he wants to get wet, but doesn't want to go in the lake.  How about a beer bong?

Brad decides he wants to get wet, but doesn't want to go in the lake. How about a beer bong?

Mission accomplished.

Mission accomplished.

A few of the guys.

A few of the guys.

Justine, Andrea, Steph, Nicole, Brad, Ryan and Kosta.

Justine, Andrea, Steph, Nicole, Brad, Ryan and Kosta.

Distances to the Arctic Circle.

Distances to the Arctic Circle.

Beware, the beer bong may attack innocent campers at any moment.

Beware, the beer bong may attack innocent campers at any moment.