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The day I met Santa Claus

By JOANNE RAE M. RAMIREZ, The Philippine STAR Published Dec 02, 2020 5:00 am Updated Dec 02, 2020 1:52 pm

If you were to ask me what I would wish for from Santa Claus this year, I wouldn’t think twice about my answer.

“I would like to visit you again in the North Pole, Santa,” I would tell him. No, it wasn’t just in my dreams — I really did visit Santa three years ago, when the world was an entirely different place, when security checks were the only nightmare we had to endure before we hopped on a plane and experienced the many enchanted worlds unfolding before us.

But there are good tidings as the Christmas season approaches, foremost of which is the news that vaccines by reputable pharmaceutical companies are coming soon to provide an armor to travelers not just on the plane, but most importantly, on the ground.

Another piece of good news comes from the IATA (International Air Transport Association): “Since the beginning of 2020, 1.2 billion passengers have traveled while there have been 44 cases of COVID-19 reported in which transmission is thought to have been associated with a flight journey (inclusive of confirmed, probably and potential cases). That’s one case for every 27 million travelers.”

  With Santa Claus in the North Pole, December 2017.

It further explains that one of the reasons there is a low risk of contracting the coronavirus on board an aircraft, is the seating position. “Most of the time on board, you are seated facing forward rather than facing another person. This makes a big difference in terms of the chance of breathing in someone else’s expelled breath.”

But it also cautions that “while the risk of transmission on an aircraft is low, passengers can take additional precautions to further lower the risk.”

So, maybe in late 2021 or early 2022, I can see you in the flesh again, Santa!

* * *

Three years ago, I met Santa and it was an encounter frozen in the icebox of my memories.

I was part of a tour to the Lapland in Northern Finland, which includes the North Pole, organized by Shan Dioquino David of Corporate International Travel and Tours. The tour was the epitome of winter wonderland, down to the last snowflake. And on the same day we were in the North Pole (in Rovaniemi, capital of the Lapland), guess who was in the Finnish capital of Helsinki? Prince William of England. Amid his official functions, the future King brought to Santa his firstborn Prince George’s list, which contained only one wish: a police car.

Because whether you’re the future king of England or the little king of your barangay, you inevitably scribble a wishlist on Christmas to Santa Claus, arguably the face of the Christmas holidays (before a child realizes the spiritual dimension of the season, that is).

Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, or simply Santa, is timeless. The only guy who can cross borders into the hearts of children anywhere in the globe.

 CITTI Tours president Shan David hopes to return to the Lapland again in late 2021.

Around the time Prince William was in Finland, our group (composed of adults, mind you) was also excitedly lining up to meet Santa Claus in the only village in the world with the Arctic Circle postmark: Santa’s Village in Rovaniemi.

Shan said even adults love visiting Santa’s Village “because there is a child in all of us.”

Shan also arranged for me to interview Santa Claus back then. With a kindly voice and twinkling eyes, Santa is the only guy I know who smiles best with his eyes. For who has actually seen his lips? Yet you know he is smiling.

What is it that most people who line up to see you wish for, I asked Santa during my brief interview.

“Happiness!” was his immediate reply.

And why should we believe in Santa Claus?

“I believe in myself,” he mused. “And you know where I belong? In your hearts. And as long as I am in your hearts, I have a home.”

* * *

 “Even for adults, there is the thrill of meeting Santa. It is never too late to meet Santa Claus,” says Shan, who foresaw the desire of many to relive their childhood dreams in the snow blanketed Lapland.

The Lapland experience she curated included chasing the Northern Lights (the “Aurora Borealis”), a reindeer sleigh ride, a snowmobile ride, a husky sleigh ride, ice fishing and a coveted visit to Santa’s Village.

“Most likely, we can resume this Lapland experience in the last quarter of 2021 till March 22,” believes Shan. (You may reach her at 0917-8986541 for inquiries.)

Almost totally destroyed during World War II, Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, is a modern city known for being the “official” home town of Santa Claus, and for viewing the Northern Lights. 

Rovaniemi received the status of the “Official Hometown” of Santa Claus in 2010.

There are many reasons to love Rovaniemi – spellbinding nature and phenomena, Lappish traditions and culture, urban life and dazzling winterscapes.

Since 1985 till the time of our visit in December 2017, Santa Claus has received 15 million letters from over 190 countries. If you are in Santa’s village and decide to send a letter though its post office, which is operated by Finland’s national postal service, your letter gets a special Arctic Circle postmark not available anywhere else. I kid thee not.

So myth or magic, man or showman, Santa Claus exists. He exists when you believe that the Christmas dreams of your childhood have made you want to reach for the skies — or the North Pole of your dreams — when you grew up.

And when there are times that life isn’t all that jolly, just like now when we are gripped by the claws of the pandemic, memories of a childhood (or a “second childhood” while interviewing Santa) when one believed in all things good, including Santa, will always bring a smile to one’s lips.

Even behind a mask. Ho! Ho! Ho!