An online advent calendar finds its limitation when you want to interview someone who doesn’t want to be part of the internet. But luckily, Santa and his Finnish alter ego (let’s call him Juha) agreed anyhow to take part (following strict rules of anonymity). Here comes number 24. Enjoy and lovely Christmas!
Dear Santa, you want to stay anonymous. I can accept that. Everyone knows Santa, although I go by many names in different countries.
So what’s your name in Finland? Joulupukki.
Do you live in Helsinki? No, I live in Korvatunturi, in Lapland. Finnish kids know that very well and people around the world as well, all the way through African nations. I just like to stop in Helsinki, especially after Christmas Eve and Christmas day I often stop here for a little hot dog in Helsinki downtown; sometimes I like to fly in the sky and watch the hassle of street life from above.
I know Santa, you have an alter ego, a person behind you, like Spiderman has and I know this person lives in Helsinki. So for how long have you been living here? Well, my latest stint here has lasted more or less twenty years. I had to spend a few years in the United States setting up production capacity there with the local elves, but who cares about 20 years more or less. And I’m not even going to go into the 18th or 17th century and beyond, that’s too old stuff for people to be interested in today.
What’s a special Finnish Christmas tradition? (No answer. Santa needs quite some time.)
Santa, what’s wrong? Let’s start with food. I like the Finnish Christmas Eve’s lunch. It’s rice porridge, Riisipuuro in Finnish. That’s also Santa’s favourite. Finnish people add an almond there and whoever finds it on their plate will have a lucky next year. I like the concept of optimism there that someone will get a whole good year from a Christmas meal.
Oh Santa, you have a funny humour. Rice porridge is also good when cold. Sometimes Santa needs to take lunch to go. You add cinnamon, sugar and sauce with plums and apricots. Perhaps rice porridge is not a correct word for Riisipuuro. Santa hasn’t been prepping his English for a long time.
What have you been proud of lately? Lately in September, Joulumuori, my dear spouse and I, we got a new elf in the house, Tomas. He is only a few months old but in no time, he’ll be grown up and working in the factory with the other elves. I also thought I should modernise my understanding of parenthood. So I’ve been reading these great Finnish books, for example Suomalainen Vauvakirja by Matilda Katajamäki and then some great fiction about having a baby, now I don’t remember the name. For the first time it has really opened my eyes that other women go as crazy as Joulumuori, my dear spouse, when she’s expecting or right after we had a new elf in the house. Those books have really made a big influence on me and I’m proud that I took on the task reading them to understand more what it’s like parenting elves.
What is the toughest part? The evenings because the nights in Lapland are really long at this point. So Santa’s wife and elf, they stay in Korvatunturi even when I do business in Helsinki, Stockholm or elsewhere. There is practically no sun in winter. So little Tomas has trouble getting used to the normal day rhythm and finding his sleep. He cries a lot in the evenings and that’s really tough. I’m really waiting for the spring when he can wake up and smile with the sun.
It’s already difficult for adults, how hard must it be for a baby. True! I use melatonin and other medicine to keep on working. You know, Santa doesn’t live on the Holy Spirit alone.
Oh Santa, let’s not go into details here. Why are you so cautious with your internet appearance? First of all, let’s say somebody put videos of me on Youtube, and then suddenly people all over the world would start hunting me. Now I’m still in relative peace. Privacy is part of the job. How can I otherwise keep the tight schedule? And also remember, I’m giving out free stuff! If everyone knew how to reach me around the clock, imagine that! Now it’s nice, the Finnish mail delivery brings me everyone’s letters and we get to read them in peace throughout the year. If everyone could send me an email I would certainly get a lot of spam, probably even robot spam. Or just imagine, a picture without my hat would stay forever in the Internet. That’s bad for Santa.
You’re very clever Santa! Do you have a special Christmas that you remember? Well, my memory goes back a thousand years. Some of the earliest memories have started to fade away, but I remember last year was really nice when I got to visit some relatives in the countryside and already when I approached the farm, the dogs stopped me at the parameter of the yard. They didn’t recognise me because I was using my official suit that day, of course. They were quite excited about the reindeer, so I had to leave my sledge there and walk the last hundred metres.
Inside was a really nice atmosphere. There were relatives, even from abroad. Their kids came from a country where I usually visit at night, so for the first time, they really saw me alive. The pure joy of them seeing me, all the people singing Christmas carols and reading a Christmas poem, it touched me. So I’d say that was a memorable event.
Do you have a dream? Well, retirement is not one of my dreams and that would be a personal objective anyway. My dream is to see all children have a happy day on Christmas, perhaps the whole Christmas time until Epiphany, worldwide, we’re way beyond that objective. But I’m doing my part to fulfil that dream. Christmas is particularly a celebration for kids and families.
Is there a special wish you have for this year’s Christmas? This year I absolutely wish that there was peace in most of Europe and nationwide, even just for one day. I wish that people remember those who are poor in the economic recession you find in many countries and that people would care to send some gifts or wealth to those in need. Just to remember how the three wise men brought gifts to poor Jesus.
Merry Christmas, Santa!