In Arctic Finland, Santa’s Grotto Doubles as a Bomb Shelter

Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland.
The Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland. (Photo: Timo Newton-Syms)

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has not caught Russias neighbouring country Finland unprepared, as even the Santa Claus theme park in is ready to revert to its original function - an emergency bomb shelter in case of attack.

As reported by Reuters, tens of thousands of people visit the Santa Park in Rovaniemi city in Lapland each year to meet Santa and have their photograph taken with him. The cavernous underground corridors are replete with Santa's post office, elf school, handicraft shops, Christmas trees and reindeer. Its main purpose, however, is far from festive.

Carved into a hill some 50 meters (55 yards), the shelter is equipped to withstand bombings or a chemical or nuclear attack and could house 3,600 people. It has camping beds, first aid kits and even equipment to dig a tunnel back to the surface in case the construction collapses. A separate well provides water, although people would need to bring their own food.

While most of the Santa-themed items would have to be cleared out in case the shelter needed to be used, some toys from the gift shop would be kept for children seeking safety there. The Santa shelter is just one of about 50,000 built after the Nordic country experienced two wars with the Soviet Union during World War Two.

Normally housing swimming pools, sports centers or parking garages during peacetime, this vast network has become part of everyday life across Finland.

They can be converted into emergency housing for some 80% of its 5.5 million population within hours should military action spill over the 1,300-km (810-mile) Finland-Russia border or even in case of a nuclear plant disaster in Russia.

Most shelters in Finland are private as it has been mandated by law to build one under every apartment block since the 1940s.

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