Helsinki (AFP) – Santa Claus has already begun his preparations in Lapland — by protecting himself from winter viruses and making sure he hires enough elves.
On Thursday nurse Tiia Kahkonen administered an anti-influenza vaccine to Santa, at his village in the Arctic Circle town of Rovaniemi, northern Finland.
The jab is likely to be a sensible precaution, as the flu season coincides with the busiest time of the year by far in Lapland.
In December last year 390,000 foreign visitors spent a night in Finnish Lapland, an increase of almost ten percent on the previous Christmas.
By far the largest group of Christmas holidaymakers were Brits, followed by Russian, French and German tourists, according to official statistics.
Meanwhile a recruitment agency in Finnish Lapland, inside the Arctic circle, has put out a call for Christmas elves to look after the hordes of tourists who come to visit Santa in his natural habitat during the winter months.
Prior experience is not essential as the advert, posted by the firm Lapland Staff, promises that training will be provided in “the required elfing and communication skills.”
Successful applicants will also be given tips on how to deal with the cold in northern Finland where temeratures rarely rise above zero degrees Celsius, and can drop as low as minus 40.
Although handling Santa’s reindeer is not listed among the job’s duties, elves will need to herd groups of visitors on and off buses, as well as keep tourists entertained. “Looking after the fireplace and pouring hot juice” are also required, as is supervising the toboggan hill.
Tourism to Lapland has reached an all-time high in recent years, with visitors spending 3.5 million nights in Lapland across the whole year, up from 2.6 million a decade earlier, according to Statistics Finland.
Much of the recent growth has been driven by tourism from Asia.