Finland

St. Nicholas sometimes has connections to unexpected places. One such is the Pirunpesä, a tafone (a small cave-like feature found in granular rock with an entrance), found near the south shore of Lake Kulovesi, about midway between the towns of Nokia and Sastamaia.

This stone, also known as The Devil’s Nest, has stood for centuries, ever since glaciers receded during the last Ice Age. Water has removed the softer stone, hollowing out the inside, leaving the harder part that forms the cave-like cavity. The stone is 17 feet long and 10 feet tall—large enough to crawl inside.

When the Sami people (also known as Laplanders) lived here, they worshipped the stone as an Sieidi, a sacrificial rock.

When Christianity came to the region, belief shifted and the stone was then believed to be Saint Nicholas’ home.

Pirunpesa
Pirunpesä, tafone, once thought to be St. Nicholas’ home
Photos: AtlasObscura
Pirunpesa
Pirunpesä, from the side
Pirunpesa
Honeycombed tafoni inside the stone

Perhaps this ancient legend is part of what led to Finnish claims to be the home and workshop of Santa Claus. In 1927 radio broadcaster “Uncle Marcus” announced that Korvatunturi was the site of Santa’s secret workshop. Korvatunturi is a fell (mountain-like formation reaching above the tree line), located in the northern wilderness of Finnish Lapland. The name, Pirunpesä, means “Ear Fell” as that is the shape of Korvatunturi.

Each year since 1960 Finland’s public broadcaster YLE sends out a video to viewers worldwide that shows Santa leaving his log cabin on a sleigh drawn by a white reindeer.

Over time the more accessible Rovaniemi became known as Santa’s official home town. The Finish tourism board began marketing Lapland in 1984 as Santa’s official home, declaring the province “Santa Claus Land.” Santa Claus Village opened just outside Ronvaniemi in 1985. Marketing intensified in 1989 when sixteen of the largest Finnish companies formed an association whose sole purpose was to market the Finnish Santa Claus idea. Santas went all over the world promoting Finnish Santa Claus tourism. The village now gets half a million visitors a year. That is a Santa marketing success!

Finnish Santa Claus
Santa from Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Finland
Photo: Santa Claus Village

Sources:
Pirunpesä [The Devil’s Nest], Atlas Obscura.
Does Santa Come from Finland, BBC TRavel
Scandinavia, Finland battle over the origin of Santa Claus, Orange County Register
How Rovaniemi, Finland, became the “official hometown” of Santa Claus, Quartz

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