THE word Lapland is thrown around so much at Christmas, you'd be forgiven for thinking it's not a real place.
But here we are in the actual place.
More specifically, Saariselkä in northern Finland. And, yes, we're here to meet Santa.
Perhaps because our family name is Chrismas (no "t"), I've been drawn here for a while but world events have got in the way.
Our kids, ten-year-old Dylan and Alex, nine, are now very much at the upper end of the recommended age range.
They're wise enough not to ask too many awkward questions, but still have a few queries: "How long is the flight?", "What should we wear?" and "Er, doesn't Santa Claus live at the North Pole?"
Read more on Christmas
I’m a thrifty mum – why you should start preparing for Christmas 2023 NOW
I’ve started saving for Christmas NEXT YEAR using simple method
There had been a party atmosphere on the flight out from Birmingham. More Disney Club than Club 18-30, of course.
A mum in front of us handed out packets of Haribos while another ordered a round of Pepsi Max and J2Os and it wasn't even 7am.
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town was played over the public address system, then kids shared favourite Christmas jokes to a receptive audience.
Our destination, Saariselkä, is Europe's most northerly ski resort. Like Alaska, Siberia and Greenland, it's above the Arctic Circle the relatively balmy Iceland is below it.
Most read in Family
Haven has 2023 holiday deals from £3pp a NIGHT
Thorpe Park has Easter overnight stays from £65pp- with park entry & free breakfast
Forest Holidays sale – 15% off hot-tub staycations at new holiday park in Wales
A post-pandemic family holiday of a lifetime with Travel Republic
At this time of the year, the sun doesn't rise, although there's a bluish lightness for a few hours a day.
It gets seriously cold here. Sure, it was pretty nippy in the UK last week but Saariselkä hit -32C!
At the hotel we're issued with snowsuits, snow boots, huge mittens and even woollen socks.
We immediately head to a nearby toboggan run. It's steep, bumpy and ridiculously good fun for all ages.
Snow lies here for roughly half the year, so operators are on safe ground with their snow guarantee.
Sadly, cloud cover ruined any chance of seeing the Northern Lights, but an evening excursion riding 600cc snowbikes into a forest clearing is fun all the same.
The centrepiece of the holiday is a Search for Santa day spent at an outdoor activity centre called what else? North Pole.
Getting there, our coach dashes down roads lined by perfectly still, snow-covered trees, with a sprinkling of the white stuff also hanging in the air. It's like a moving postcard.
With everyone joining a Christmas singalong, it might just have been the most Christmassy I've ever felt.
Giant igloo Once there, our family is taken on a mystery trip to a hut where we're greeted by playful elves.
Inside, the kids are surprised when the Big Man pulls out letters they'd written to him the day before and - shhh! - had been secretly passed on via holiday reps.
For the rest of the day, we're free to explore and play. We steer a sleigh pulled by huskies at high speed.
We go on another, more sedate ride, pulled by a reindeer although, for the record, we don't take off into the air at any point.
We play ice hockey well, snow hockey and fish through a hole in ice and catch elves wrapping presents in a giant igloo.
The kids even take solo rides on a snowmobile albeit one tied to a tree. All in all, it's truly an unforgettable day.
Sadly, we have just 48 hours in Saariselkä. Like Santa and his reindeer in the sky, it passes in a flash.
As we drive home from the airport, Dylan shares something which has been on his mind.
Read More on The Sun
Shoppers rave about Asda’s Christmas sale – including a 3p denim shirt
Urgent WhatsApp danger you must avoid – or it could cost you thousands
"OK, Dad, how did you do it?" he asks. "How did you get our letters to Santa?"
AND and in gear " "Ah, well that's magic," I reply to him. "The magic o Christmas."
GETTING / STAYING THERE: Santa's Magic package is from £3,059 per family, based on two nights' half-board at Santa's Hotel Tunturi for two adults and one child flying from Gatwick on Nov 28, 2023. Includes flights from 14 regional airports, transfers, half-board, snow activities, private family meeting with Santa and snowsuit hire.
Departures from Nov 24 to Dec 24, 2023. To book, visit santaslapland.com or call 01483 791 945.
Source: Read Full Article