After this week’s tips for saving and sharing family photos, it’s high time for a jolly competition – after all, giving away presents is my favourite pastime!
Share your most memorable Christmas photo for a chance to win a Rise of the Guardians DVD starring me, my elves, my friend the Easter Bunny, and a few others you might recognise – it’s certainly not my first starring role, but it’s a charming family film.
Just email your most memorable Christmas photo – whether it’s funny, cute, decades old, unusual or tugs at the heartstrings – to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and postcode, and a winner will be chosen at random. The competition runs for two weeks, so get your entries in before the stroke of midnight on Friday the 31stof May.*
I’ll have my elves upload the entries to a special album on Facebook, so have a look for your submission! Hopefully this will inspire you to dust off photos from Christmases past, gather your family together to select an entry, and relive those special experiences once again.
If you need any inspiration, the photo above of my silly elves with little Lizzie (sent in by her mum Katharine) should do the trick! Ho-ho-ho! You can also see that lots of people have shared their lovely family photos taken at Santa’s Lapland, which might give you ideas as well.
Little ones grow so quickly, meaning it’s extra important to capture magical moments like holidays, family gatherings and Christmas!
Every year people ask me for a camera or smartphone under the tree, but then they become too busy to edit or share their precious family photos. To be fair, even I am guilty of that sometimes, especially when there are toys to build, huskies to play with, and reindeer sleighs to ride. After all, I’m not only busy during the festive season!
To help inspire you, I’ve gathered some tips from my expert elves on how to best preserve your family photos:
Beautiful Photo Books
It’s tempting to upload your pictures to Facebook and call it a day, but I’d bet my beard that Facebook won’t be around forever. You also don’t want loved ones who aren’t on Facebook to miss out on the special family photos.
While traditional scrapbooking is time-intensive, online services allow you to easily upload photos, add captions, and print out glossy and high-quality photo books. This way, you can show them to family over a cup of tea, or give them a copy as a special gift. My elves make thousands of photo books and calendars as pressies every Christmas, and they recommend Blurb, Photobox and iPhoto (to name a few).
If you documented your family Christmas break with a mobile phone instead of a camera, don’t despair – you can order special Instagram photo books and prints from Printstagram (you can see one in the photo above), and Blurb creates photo books, calendars and more from Instagram and Facebook photos. As we discussed earlier, the Postagram mobile app even sends real-life postcards from smartphone photos.
Easy Photo Editing
It can be tricky to capture a perfect photo in the Lapland dusk, flying through the twilight in a fast-moving sleigh or surrounded by reflective snow. Thankfully, Picasa is a free photo-editing program from Google that allows you to fix exposure, eliminate red-eye, and straighten photos with ease.
What makes Picasa great for busy parents is the “I’m feeling lucky” button, which is an all-in-one fixer-upper. Don’t abandon your underexposed photos or struggle with Photoshop for days – just whiz through your albums with this button, and you’ll look like a pro photographer in no time. Next year’s Christmas card photo of me, the elves and Mrs Claus is looking better already!
If you are a more advanced photographer, Picasa still has the tools for you, from detailed colour correction to fill light and filters.
If your loved ones struggle with computers, why don’t you offer to fix up their photos for them?
How do you preserve your family holiday memories? Do you prefer to put your photos on Facebook, or do you share them another way too?
In order to make the hottest gifts and gadgets each Christmas, my elves like to stay up-to-date with new technology. This makes them a great resource if you have questions about popular apps, video games and toys – as I often do!
Today I’ve asked them to share some cool apps for family holidays – whether sending Gran a personal postcard from Lapland, learning about the Arctic Circle or downloading a book to read in your cosy cabin after the children have gone to bed.
Downloadable smartphone apps allow you to discover the world, share photos, navigate, and keep children entertained, meaning a modern family holiday is a high-tech affair (as anybody with an Angry Birds-obsessed child – or spouse – can attest). No more paper maps with highlighters for the youngest generation, although Mrs Claus still prefers it that way.
I asked my elves to review their favourite travel apps, and here are their suggestions:
Available for iPhone and iPad (Free)
We may be biased, but of course we had to include this travel-themed app about Lapland! Laplication beams the Northern Lights and midnight sun straight to you, wherever you are.
Capture the Christmas magic by pointing your mobile device at the sky and hitting go – although there’s no substitute for the real thing! The app also offers fun Lapland-themed photo filters to add a bit of (fake) snow to your springtime, and works offline so you can use it on the go.
Available for Android, iPhone, iPad and web (Free)
Instagram and Facebook are perfect for sharing impromptu photos of the little ones cuddling a reindeer, but less tech-savvy family and friends will be left out of the loop. Involve Gran in your magical Lapland holiday with Postagram, which allows you to send your photos as physical, real-world postcards. As a bonus, the photo pops out so the recipient can put it on their mantelpiece or fridge with the Christmas cards. The app is free, but postcards are $1.99 each to send in Europe and $1 in the US.
As it’s nearly the May bank holiday, I know many of you will be enjoying the spare time with your families. While often reserved for Christmas and the school holidays, making crafts together can make the day fly by no matter the time of year!
It’s a teeny bit early for Christmas tree baubles and reindeer crafts – well, at my house it is always time for Christmas activities, but I know that other families want to celebrate spring and summer as well. Here are some lovely free spring crafts and printables to make with your family this weekend if you are staying at home.
The gorgeous flower crown above comes from the beautiful party and lifestyle blog Oh Happy Day by Jordan Ferney. These lovely wreaths are a little more magical than your work-a-day daisy chain – perfect for a party, special picnic or family portrait. All you need is flowers and ribbon, although a bit of wire helps hold it together for longer. Your little ones can help if they want to gather flowers from the garden.
These homemade paper boats are perfect for a day out at the park or a local pond. Ever-creative Martha Stewart has instructions on how to create this lovely, practical toy with common household materials.
As winter makes a last retreat and the birds and bees are back in town, these cute ladybird and bee birdfeeders are for parents and children to make together – while adults handle the scissors, children can paint and decorate the feeder. Although looking at it, I think it would be greatly improved with some reindeer antlers and a red nose…
Play dress-up with this lovely butterfly crown – whether queen of the meadow or king of the garden, print and cut out these butterfly shapes for children to colour in. If butterflies aren’t to your taste, why not try sunflowers or big green leaves instead? It will also last a little longer than the floral crown above.
I hope you and your special little helpers have a very jolly weekend! The elves have their fingers crossed that the sun will come out, although there is still a lot of snow in Lapland! If you make any crafts this weekend, why not share with the Santa’s Lapland community on Facebook or Pinterest?
Spending time with children opens your eyes to the power of new experiences – seeing a child’s wonder as they encounter something new is so powerful! It’s why so many families come from all over the world to meet me and tell me about their dreams and wishes – and it’s one of the reasons I love to meet them.
Wonder and curiosity isn’t limited to children – many people have a bucket list of amazing experiences they hope to have in their lifetimes.
Seeing the Northern Lights is a common ambition, right up there with skydiving, swimming with dolphins and going on safari. Not everything on a bucket list has to be big, however – many children tell me they’d love to have a husky like mine one day.
While I’ve been lucky to see the Northern Lights and travel the entire world each December, there are still plenty of things I want to try – like haggis!
Let me know on Facebook – what is on your bucket list? Even better, ask your children and let me know their sweet and funny answers. As I found out last year, kids say the craziest things!
Many children write to Santa with questions and Christmas wishes – today, he answers a common question.
Mummy says we are coming to see you this Christmas! Where is Lapland, and how will Mummy know where to find you?
Love, Emily (5 ¾ years old)
Of course Mummy knows where to find me – Mummies know everything.
I could talk all day about my beautiful home in Lapland, from the pristine fluffy snow to majestic wildlife, gorgeous lakes and native forests. Children often ask me what my homeland is like, so today I’d love to answer some questions about Lapland.
Where is Lapland located?
Lapland is in the Arctic Circle, near the North Pole, so we enjoy sparkling midnight sun during summertime and lovely long nights in winter. It isn’t exactly a country in its own right, but covers parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia – my home in magical Saariselkä is in Finnish Lapland, which is fitting as I love a good hot Finnish sauna. Finnish Lapland has beautiful lakes and marshes in the summertime where my elves go fishing – and they also go ice fishing in the winter with our visitors.
Lapland even has its own football team, the Sámi Spábbáčiekčanlihttu.
If Lapland isn’t a country, then what is it?
It is the traditional homeland of the indigenous Sami people, who call the area Sápmi. They have lived here with me since long before there were national borders.
Who are the Sami?
The Sami are the local people of Lapland (along with myself and the elves, of course). They are most famous for being nomadic reindeer herders, and many still herd reindeer today – although nowadays you are more likely to see them herding with a skidoo than on foot.
The skidoo, reindeer and huskies are still the best way to get around in Lapland, and our visitors love taking mini-skidoo rides, flying through the twilight on a reindeer sleigh, and making friends with the huskies who pull them through the snow.
Can I see the Northern Lights in Lapland?
Yes! While there are no guarantees that the aurora will put on a show, Lapland is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. I am extra excited this year, because NASA says that we will see the strongest Aurora Borealis in 11 years. This is one of the reasons I love the long winter nights here – the dreamlike ribbons of dancing green light make the hard work at Christmas worth it!
The food here in Lapland is hearty and based on seasonal and foraged items like berries, wild game, reindeer and fish. We also make delicious sausages, flatbread and mince pies – although these are harder to come by. Which is why they are a special treat for me on Christmas Eve, giving me all the energy I need for the long night ahead!
Now that spring is on the way, the ice is melting in Lapland and it is the season for fresh fish! One of my favourite recipes for a cold spring day is salmon soup. Not only is it a bit healthy (as we all know, the missus has me on a diet these days), but it is warming, quick and easy to make.
Lapland is famous for its cute and majestic animal residents – which is one of the reasons Mrs Claus and I love living here in Saariselkä! Nothing beats the thrill of driving through the woods on a husky sleigh ride, or snuggling under blankets on a magical reindeer sleigh ride through my snowy wonderland.
Besides huskies and reindeer, there are plenty of furry creatures in Lapland that would make anybody saw “aww”. I had a look at Pinterest (yes, Santa is just as addicted as everyone else) and found some photos of my favourite Lapland wildlife. Enjoy!
Of course, husky dogs are my favourite local animal! Children and adults love being pulled through the snow by a husky team almost as much as they love cuddling the sweet dogs and making friends.
Image sent to me by Tracey Woodfine – thanks, Tracey!
These gentle creatures are the lifeblood of the Sami people of Lapland, who sometimes migrate with their herds of reindeer. Just like Rudolf, reindeer in Lapland love a good scratch on the nose, and are a favourite with my visitors for their sense of humour.
Anyone with an iphone or ipad will undoubtedly have heard of the Angry Birds game that has proved to be so popular that there is even talk about an Angry Birds film. What many people don’t know is that the game was created by a computer game developed called Rovio Entertainment based in Finland.
To celebrate the international success of this game franchise the Holiday Club hotel group of Finland have designed and built Angry Birds Activity parks across Finland. The Holiday Club in Saariselka has been chosen as one of the venues for an Angry Birds activity park which will feature a play area/obstacle course designed using popular Angry Birds characters. Access to the activity park is from the holiday club.
Tickets will cost €14 for adults and children and children under 3 years old enter for free. If you are interested in booking a ticket before arriving you can contact the holiday club team directly on email@example.com
The holiday club in Saariselka is one of the most popular hotels in the Finish Lapland village of Saariselka and you can stay there throughout December 2013 with Santa’s Lapland with prices starting from £799 for adults and £99 for children. There are also lots of free child places available on select dates so check the website for more information or contact a member of the reservations team on 01483 791945
Whilst everyone that comes to Lapland gets to have a private meeting with me in my Log Cabin home, there are lots more things for you to whilst you are visiting my homeland. For those that love the feel of wind in their hair and snow under their feet you can try out 1 of the 2 skiing options here in Saariselka.
Cross Country Skiing
The total length of the ski tracks is 230km with 34km of those illuminated for night time sessions. They are open from October to May and offer you the opportunity to see different part of Saariselka than most visitors to this lovely land.
The 5km long track is made ready for skiers as soon as the weather is right and they make use of their excellent snow production system that was put in place in 2004.
For adults the cost is £29 and for children aged between 6 and 11 the price is £19. We recommend doing this on your day of arrival for 3 day Santa’s Magic and on your adventure day for 4 day Santa’s Spectacular breaks.
There are 11 slopes in Saariselka with a varying degree of difficulty from beginners slopes to advanced black slopes. For Snowboarders there is a halfpipe that has been created to practice your spins and grabs. This area is brilliant for beginners new to skiing who want to gain some confidence without being surrounded by lots of people or for those more experienced skiers wanting to get their snow legs back.
If it all gets a bit too tiring there is a restaurant at the top of the slopes where you can stop for a hot drink and something to eat.
Downhill skiing is only available on my Santa Spectacular 4 day breaks. A two hour session with lift pass and equipment costs adults £49, children 6-12 years old £39 and children under 6 £29. If you are new to skiing you can also book a 90 minutes lessons for 1 person (£43), 2 people (£29pp) and 3 people or more (£22pp)
A Meeting with Santa (me)in my secret log-cabin home in the woods. I guarantee a private meeting for every family and not a meeting in a restaurant with a coach-load of other families.
My Elves & Igloo FantasiaI want to tell you about a very special Santa Secret. I have had my helpers build, just for you, two enchanting Igloos, hidden in the forest and never before seen by anyone.
Reindeer sleigh-rideI offer a proper 7-10 minute ride through the snowy winter woods, not a 2-minute ‘taster’ ride going around and around a small looped track.
Husky-sled-ride.My unforgettable ride is approx. 15-minutes and is not a 2-minute ‘taster’ ride, being driven around a short circular route.
Snowmobile sleigh rideWhen you come to visit me, everyone gets to ride behind a snowmobile during our ‘Search for Santa’, and mini skidoos are available for the children.
The resort experienceI believe in the true spirit of a Lapland Christmas, with our full-length activities held in magical woodland wilderness locations. I am not so keen on commercialised centres where you may end up killing time in charmless gift-shops and grottos!
Places to stayI have chosen three and four-diamond hotels with excellent facilities and food, and also my own Santa’s Christmas Cabins. Beware of others that offer one or two-star business-style hotels.
Child PricesIt is the children that really want to see me so I have thousands of FREE Child Places and many other magically low prices for them.
Travel arrangementsSaariselkä is only 25 minutes from Ivalo Airport whereas other companies travel up to 2 hours by coach to and from the resort.