Some 37,000 Russians expect to visit Finland this holiday season, whisked across the border for Christmas and New Year's Day celebrations in sleek, elegant trains. Thousands more from America and innumerable other countries will travel to Helsinki and Rovaniemi to enjoy the celebrations.
Lapland, in northern Finland, is the magical land near the North Pole where legend holds that Joulupukki -- Santa Claus -- keeps his reindeer. The people of Lapland have rushed to create a brilliant sea of lights that will illuminate the night for the thousands of expected visitors. Choirs are tuning up for performances in every church and at many outdoor venues. Joulupukki is often seen on the streets of the Lapland capital of Rovaniemi this time of year, the elves of Christmas by his side. And the awesome sights of the holiday season are not all man-made: The incredible Northern Lights, the aurora borealis, add a spectacular gift from the heavens.
What makes Christmas in Finland special? Just this: A mere 73 years have passed since Soviet Premier Josef Stalin sent trains filled with Red Army soldiers into Finland. Over a period of 105 days, the two nations engaged in one of the most ferocious battles of World War II.