With Christmas time rapidly approaching, children around the world address pleading letters to Santa Claus‘ workshop at the North Pole, hoping that mail carriers will trek through unforgivable climates to ensure a PS5 makes it beneath their tree this holiday. Where else are they going to send their letters? The North Pole is Santa’s home, right?
That’s how the story usually goes anyway. Old Saint Nick lives at the top of the world in a winter wonderland. His little town surrounds the majestic candy cane striped pole. His workshop bustles in the Arctic Circle while his helpers pump out enough toys for the billions of people on the “nice list.” There’s gumdrops, milk and cookies, plenty of room for his reindeer to play in their natural habitat, the whole shebang. But the North Pole at the top of the world isn’t the only place that lays claim to Santa’s home. You can find the jolly saint in several different places.
Santa's first home was nowhere near the North Pole
Santa’s original home was nowhere close to the North Pole. Of course, that was back before he was a mystical Christmas spirit, and while he was still an actual living man. We’re talking about the minor Christian saint Nicholas of Myra, also known as Saint Nicholas, on whom the legend of Santa Claus is based.
During the 4th century, Saint Nicholas lived in the city of Myra in a land called Lycia, which is geographically close to the modern city of Demre, Turkey. At the time, it’s believed that Nicholas was the city’s bishop, but there isn’t much documentation to back it up. The guy had a pretty interesting life, traveling to Egypt and Palestine as a young man. But, according to Britannica, Myra was always St. Nick’s home. Well, for the time he was alive anyway.
After Nicholas’ death, he was buried in the Myra church where he practiced, but his bones wouldn’t remain there. By the 1100s, the saint’s bones would be stolen by Italian sailors and taken to rest in Bari. The incident would increase Nicholas’ popularity and led to a slew of churches built in his honor. His bones would also be scattered around Europe when the craze for mystical relics took hold. Basically, Santa’s bones can be found in many different places these days.
North Pole… um… New York?
The story of Santa Claus living at the North Pole didn’t come about until December 29, 1866, when a cartoon by illustrator Thomas Nast was published in Harper’s Weekly, according to The World. Before that, Santa just lived wherever. It simply depended on which Santa Claus mythos you happened to believe. Kriskringle came from Germany, Father Christmas from Britain, and Sinterklaas from Holland. Nast’s cartoon changed everything, when it designated Santa’s home as “Santa Claussville, N.P.”
From there, the legend of the North Pole being Santa’s home base gained traction through the 19th and 20th centuries. As a result, several “North Poles” popped up in different areas, with one of the first being built near Lake Placid, New York, in 1949. Santa’s Workshop in North Pole, NY, was one of the first theme parks ever built, and it revolves solely around the story of Santa Claus. The fantasy village was built by businessman Julian Reiss and designer Arto Monaco after Reiss’ daughter begged to be taken to Santa’s village. At least, that what Santa’s Workshop’s official webpage says.
The theme park is still up and running today and is filled with rides and attractions. The park’s popularity got North Pole, NY, awarded a rural postal station, so you can actually have letters sent to Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole.
Santa Claus Village in Finland
The town of Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, Finland, was burnt to the ground by the Germans during World War II. But during the postwar reconstruction, it transformed into another one of Santa Claus’ homes. How? Well, according to the Smithsonian, Eleanor Roosevelt wanted to see Santa while visiting Rovaniemi — since it’s located in the Arctic Circle — and Rovaniemi responded by building Santa Claus Village.
Since Rovaniemi was rebuilt, the city has become a major tourist attraction for people around the world wanting to check out Santa Claus’ office, home, and reindeer. According to Rovaniemi’s official website, the town now receives over half a million tourists each year. Santa Claus Village is a fully functioning Christmas town devoted to Santa. The Santa Claus Main Post Office, one of the town’s biggest attractions, is even a real post office that has its own special postmark not found anywhere else in the world. Whether or not the real Santa calls Rovaniemi home isn’t important. If you want to check out a real Christmas town, you’re heading to Finland.
Bunked up in Alaska
To most Americans, it seems only natural that Santa’s base of operations should be located in Alaska. It’s the northmost state in the US, but Santa isn’t inherently American, so Alaskans had to make do with building their own homesites for the Christmas icon. Which, they did, by building North Pole, Alaska. With all of these North Poles, it’s a wonder Santa’s letters ever reach the guy.
When Con and Nellie Miller first showed up in Fairbanks, Alaska in 1949, there was already a small community going by the name “North Pole” just thirteen miles south of the city. But Con Miller’s habit of putting on the iconic red suit during the holidays while working his fur trading business got him labeled as the area’s own local Santa pretty quick — talk about a real-life Santa Clause. So, the Millers did what any rational Clauses would do and moved to North Pole, Alaska, where they opened a trading post. Of course, they named the post “Santa Claus House.”
Over the years, North Pole grew as a town and Santa Claus House became more Santa-y, even adding a 42-foot-tall Santa statue out front. The Miller family created a tourist attraction. But what’s more, they devoted themselves to the lifestyle. According to the Santa Claus House website, the house hosts thousands of visitors every year and the family sends out Santa letters to kids around the globe.
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