Father Frost and Santa Claus met at the Finnish-Russian border

Where does the holiday begin a month prior to the New Year? Where does the Snow Maiden speak Finnish? Where does Santa Claus feel at home while being abroad? At the multilateral road checkpoint Wärtsilä-Niirala on the Karelian site of the Russian-Finnish border! Here, with the assistance of border and customs services of Russia and Finland, Father Frost and Santa Claus ("Joulupukki" in Finnish) met; the meeting marked the beginning of Christmas and New Year season.

After warm greetings on the boundary line, Santa Claus with a group of tourists made a one-day visit to Sortavala (Russia) where he met children at kindergartens and schools and gave out presents; with the same purpose Santa Claus together with the Snow Maiden visited a geriatric home in the Finnish town Kitee, welcomed children in Tohmajärvi. Everywhere they were welcomed heartily, with songs and greetings, everyone accepted the presents with pleasures.

In their speeches the representatives of the regulatory structures noted that no one should have spoiled the holiday due to forgetfulness or on purpose: documents for border crossing shall be in order, and all limitations and restrictions upon the movement of goods shall be observed. For example, one can learn about customs limitations and restrictions in the information areas at the checkpoint; information and advice is available at the Karelian customs both in person and by phone, through the mass media. There are also information booklets available issued by Karelian customs concerning basic customs regulations: "Important to know and remember", "To Tourist Attention", as well as the Reminder for individuals passing through the customs border of the Customs Union on motor vehicles (both in the Russian and the Finnish languages).

The campaign "Christmas begins with border" is held for the third consecutive year. It is aimed at demonstrating opportunities in regard to shopping and tourism on both sides of the border, giving a new impetus to the cooperation of citizens and organizations, symbolically opening the Christmas season. The campaign was initiated by the municipality of the commune Tohmajärvi and organizations related to the tourism industry in the regions of Middle Karelia (Finland) and Sortavala (the Republic of Karelia). According to the organizers, "this event inspires people to hope for the best, to care for those who need it most, and also it boosts holiday mood".

According to the press-secretary of the Karelian customs Alexander Diyakov, the multilateral road checkpoint Wärtsilä-Niirala, working within 24 hours, is the busiest checkpoint on the Karelian site of the Finnish-Russian border. According to the customs statistics, a record number of crossings are observed here this year. If in 2012, 1.5 million people crossed the border, and following the results of 2013, this number is expected to increase by 10.5 percent (over 10 months in 2013 – 1.364 million people).