Finns in this city of 29,000, located just five miles south of the Arctic Circle, have come to terms with the snow and cold of their six-month winter.
The temperature, ranging from minus 20 to minus 30 degrees on the Celsius scale (about minus 4 to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit) may seem almost unbearable to a foreigner. To Rovaniemi residents, it is business as usual.Heavy snowstorms, sometimes lasting a week at a time, rarely slow or halt traffic in winter. Roads and the adjacent bicyle paths are constantly cleared during winter months. Off to the sides are cross-country ski tracks.
To prevent excessive accumulation, dumptrucks haul snow away and dump it in nearbly lakes, and spread brown gravel along the roads.
Finns in the Arctic earn their living through such industries as logging, glass blowing and the processing of reindeer meat.
With characteristic Finnish resourcefulness, active Church members in the Rovaniemi Branch, under the leadership of Pres. Ville Kervinen, strive to live the gospel. The branch has about 75 members.
Most residents of the city live in apartments, and the Church has purchased three units of a two-story complex and renovated it into a meetinghouse. Most of the membership resides within the city itself, but one or two families travel south from within the Arctic Circle to meetings.
Elder Dan G. Hixson spent nearly half of his mission in Rovaniemi, living on the fringe of the Arctic Circle and making frequent trips into the Circle to share the warmth of testimony with non-members during two bleak winters.
He loved it.
Elder Hixson served in the Finland Helsinki Mission until his release in October 1989. A member of the BYU 103rd Ward, Brigham Young University 17th Stake, he is married and attending Utah Valley Community College in Provo, Utah.
The returned missionary has vivid memories of his time in Rovaniemi.
"I was there two winters, and the sun doesn't really come up," he recalled. "When it is up, you can't tell because of the clouds. It's pretty dark in the winter. In the summer, the sun never really goes down. It rests on the horizon until it's time to come up again."
He said the Church in Finland had little exposure north of Rovaniemi, but efforts were being made to introduce the gospel farther north.
Rovaniemi is near the home of a full-time Santa Claus, who receives letters by the truckload each day. He has reindeer outside a shop located precisely on the Arctic Circle. He answers children's letters and visits with guests.