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Stories from Lapland

Polar Nights

Julkaistu marraskuu 2018

Suvi Pasma / Sales Assistant

It’s dark outside. In the morning, during the day, at night. Do you know the feeling when every day is dark? I know. All of us who live in Lapland know it better than well. Let me explain a little.

Polar night, in Finnish “kaamos”, is a time period when the sun does not rise above the horizon in an Arctic Circle area around the world. The more north you go, the earlier the polar night starts and the later it ends. In Rovaniemi, which situates in the Arctic Circle line, the polar night lasts for 2 days, in Ylläs (160 km north from Rovaniemi) 16 days and in Utsjoki (465 km north from Rovaniemi) 52 days. Imagine, nearly 2 months without sunlight! Although don’t get me wrong, even though here in Rovaniemi the full polar night is only 2 days, it doesn’t mean the rest of the days would be “normal”. The high peak of the darkness is on the 22nd December during winter solstice and after that each day has more sunlight day by day until it reaches the 21st June, midnight summer, when the sun stays above the horizon full night, before starting its 6-month cycle of getting dark again.

Here are some examples of the length of the day (from sunrise to sunset) in Rovaniemi and Ylläs during the winter season:

                 Rovaniemi            Ylläs

1st Dec     3h 45min              2h 48min

22nd Dec  2h 15min              0h 0min

1st Jan      2h 44min             0h 58min

1st Feb      6h 23min             5h 58min

1st Mar      9h 54min             9h 47min

1st Apr      13h 41min           13h 47min

How do we locals feel about the polar night?

Polar night affects to approximately 40 % of the population, making us feel tired already when waking up in the morning and we don’t seem to have enough resources for normal everyday routines. Researches have shown that polar night affects to our quality of sleep, increase of sweet tooth and decrease of physical activity. No wonder some of us gain weight during winter – although what do you expect if you are buried in a sofa with bag of candies every night, watching Netflix? Those who are smart enough, start eating D-vitamin pills early enough and start exercising 3 times a week to keep this seasonal exhaustion away. I would love to be part of the 60 % who don’t feel any change. Instead, I’m the one who usually falls asleep in a sofa at 8 pm. Luckily, this feeling won’t last for long as we get used to the change.

Most of us can agree that the darkest time for us is in October when the beautiful Autumn colours “ruska” have finished, leaves have fallen, and snow hasn’t arrived yet. It’s the time when you really need to focus while driving a car to spot all the people walking without proper reflectors. But once the snow arrives, everything turns white. Beautiful, beautiful white. Immediately polar night doesn’t feel so dark anymore, streets and house yards are full of outdoor (Christmas) lights, candles are lit indoors and outdoors in lanterns, people dig their toboggans from their storages and make snowmen with children. We enjoy the northern lights dancing in the sky before going to sleep. Have evening walks in frosty forest in full moon. Sit around the fireplace and barbeque sausages while watching stars.

And before you know it, the days are getting longer again, first comes Spring Winter with its sunny days and blue sky. And suddenly the polar night is gone, the darkness disappears. We start to struggle with the 24/7 daylight, be super active and sleep less. What a wonderful place Lapland is!