Where to find Santa
A couple of Christmases ago I witnessed a little girl’s joy as she saw Santa’s sleigh travelling across the dark sky on Christmas Eve. No one had the heart to tell her that the twinkling lights were the navigation lights of an easyJet flight to Lisbon (You can read the rest of the story here).
We know there is a Santa in the skies during Christmas as NORAD tracks him and makes his route data available live on the Internet for anyone who wants to follow his progress. However, finding where he lives and works is a little more challenging.
Where does Santa Claus live and work when not travelling the world?
Traditionally it has been the North Pole, but scientists there have found no evidence of Santa’s residence. The North Pole is actually on frozen sea or pack ice which moves with the currents so he would have to continually relocate. Somewhere on terra firma would be much more stable.
My guess is he lives somewhere in Northern Iceland. I base this on the flimsiest of evidence, but evidence nevertheless. While driving across the northern reaches of Iceland I came across a modest house and a shop selling souvenirs. On the washing line behind the house was a red and white fur-lined suit fluttering in the wind. Obviously Mrs Santa Claus had been doing some laundry.
Iceland might be where Santa has a summer house, but he prefers the northern reaches of Europe to set up shop with his elves and reindeer. As every child knows, reindeer are very important to Santa and there is a ready supply of them in Lapland, particularly Finnish Lapland. Rovaniemi is where the jolly old elf has set up his office. There is a plentiful supply of reindeer and numerous willing helpers as well. However, this is only the Office of Santa and where he meets his adoring audience of children and a few adults. His private winter residence is near Kuopio in Eastern Finland and is perhaps the best place to go for a quiet, private audience with him.
Where do all the letters addressed to “Santa, North Pole” end up? On my visit to Greenland I discovered the answer. The post office in Nuuk, Greenland’s capital has a monstrous red post box roughly four times the height of an average man. Over the year it is gradually filled with letters addressed to Santa Claus. It would seem that post offices around the world forward all “Dear Santa,…” letters to the nearest and most practical post office to the North Pole.
The lovely volunteers of Nuuk have taken it upon themselves to answer all the letters. They resort to Google translate to ensure wherever possible children get a reply in their own language. There is also a tall perspex column there which holds thousands of dummies/pacifiers children have sent to Santa when they have outgrown them.
If NORAD were to track Santa throughout the year they may well find his route takes him to Iceland, Greenland and Finland. They may also puzzle over a trip to the city of Bari in the heel of Italy. He is probably paying his respects to the old Bishop of Myra who began all the fun myths surrounding Santa.
As bishop Nicholas, so the legend says, he dropped gold coins down the chimney of a family of three peasant girls whose father could not afford the dowry for them to get married. The money fell into the stockings drying by the fire. He was canonised and became Saint Nicholas. Centuries later Italian sailors nicked Saint Nick’s remains and he is now interred in a church dedicated to him in the Italian port of Bari.
Bari is not the place to take the kids to see him though; his effigy is more than a little terrifying. Best stick to northern snowy Europe where the reindeer roam.
Gordon Lethbridge is a travel writer who blogs at www.travelunpacked.co.uk