Photo: Kalevi Karusuo

Timo Alarik Pakkanen has had the same yearly routine for the 54th year in a row now. It all started with visiting the neighbourhood families, but grew to quite remarkable dimensions. He has done charity, he has marketed Finland for years and most of all, he has made people happy all over the world. And for all that the Finland Chamber of Commerce awarded him with a gold medal for life’s work after wearing the red outfit for 50 years. The first 50 years. And his last name translates into what else than freeze, or frost. Pleased to introduce you to Mr. Pakkanen, better known as Santa Claus.

As commonly known, Santa is quite occupied during the pre-Christmas season, but gladly the hundreds of years old white-beard knows his way with modern technology. I skyped with him while he was having a free morning in Cyprus, where he’s doing a six-week Santa gig. Along with many other European countries, he’s brought Christmas spirit to Jordania, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore and Japan, where he was the official Finnair Santa for many years, until now. Last spring, Santa Claus Licensing Ltd denounced his official Santa license due to “his actions not equivalent with the foundation’s values”.

Since 1978 he’s been the chairman of KHPV, Kohtuullisen Hutikan Pyhä Veljeskunta, The Holy Brotherhood of Moderate Intoxication. A beer society for “old-school beer enjoyers”, as he describes, with a mission to promote the Finnish beer culture but also the moderate and reasonable way of life. And that’s something the Santa foundation couldn’t digest. Apparently, in their opinion, being a spokesperson for moderate way of drinking is not suitable for a Santa, they would require total absolutism.

Santa suggests enjoying beer, not drinking it with both hands.
“There’s such an amazing amount of different styles of beers and marvellous flavour experiences to be paired with food too. Some dishes go perfectly together with a certain beer, just like some go hand in hand with a certain wine.”

The beer culture is blooming in Finland: Grocery store beer shelves are filled with numerous options and also the restaurant business has invested in their craft brewery selections. But for the Finnish microbreweries things have been made very difficult. The soon-to-be tightened alcohol legislation will for example forbid all outdoor advertising. Santa also points out that Finnish vineyards are allowed to sell their products in their own retail store on the premises, but breweries not.

From Santa I also asked for his favourite pub in the city. He still names Pub Angleterre as one of his favourites, although it has changed a lot from it’s ‘good old days’. Of the newer ones he recommends brewery restaurants Bryggeri and Bruuveri. But I also wanted to know where Santa could be found having dinner in Helsinki, if the beer theme would be set aside for a while. Along with classics like Salve, Kannas or the Rivoli pizzeria, Rivoletto, he mentioned one restaurant I had never heard of: Viking restaurant Harald. Their “särä” on the menu is supposed to be prepared the orthodox way: Lamb and potatoes braised in a wooden (birch) trough for several hours. I can only imagine how well Santa with his beard, a pint of strong beer and a hearty portion of särä go together.

I also asked if Santa will retire one day and the answer was quite clear: “Santa can’t retire, he’ll just get better getting older. I’ll travel the world as long as I’m able to use my legs, and Finland as long as I’m able to use my head.”


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