Saturday, 29 November 2014

Does Santa really live at the North Pole?

Dressed for the Cold - Bodleian Libraries' Shop
Legend and stories tell us that Father Christmas (or Santa) lives in the far North. Exactly how did St Nicholas from Turkey end up in such a cold place, nobody knows, but that hasn't stopped people telling the tale.

For example, Thomas Nast, a 19th century cartoonist, did a series of drawings showing Santa living at the North Pole. Nash also gave him a workshop for building toys and a large book filled with the names of children who had been naughty or nice!

And one of my favourite authors, J.R.R. Tolkein (The Hobbit etc) wrote Christmas letters and drawings to his children between 1920 and 1943, including this one of Father Christmas dressed for the cold at the North Pole.

Many countries lay claim to be the home of Santa - well, the Artic Circle does cross many borders after all. In North America, letters to Santa are addressed to The North Pole, although the US uses an actual city in Alaska called The North Pole, and Canada uses the postcode H0H 0H0 - which is brilliant. And of course he has lots of different homes in the Nordic countries too, especially as many people wonder how the reindeer can find lichen to eat at the real North Pole! Maybe it's part of his magic so we don't really know exactly where he lives.

Me, I like to believe he's at the real north North Pole - you know, the one marked by the intersecting longitude lines on the globe. Although we can't see his home - it is magically hidden - I know he's there.

Santa Envelope - Welsh version - The Old Button
I imagine his home to be warm and cozy, with lots of log fires and plenty of comfy chairs for enjoying hot chocolate and mince pies. There is a workshop where he and the elves still make traditional toys - although he's sub contracted the more modern stuff to the big toy factories in recent years; stables (and lots of lichen) for the reindeer, and of course a sorting office for all the letters....

Of course, you don't have to post your letter - my children always wrote handwritten letters and left them in envelopes on the mantlepiece for his magical helpers to collect. I've developed this tradition into a gorgeous wool envelope design, with the address hand embroidered on the front - we call him Sion Corn in Wales, and Pegwn Y Gogledd is Welsh for The North Pole.

But the elves reliably assure me that if you believe, your letter will get to Santa, whatever address or language you use.

Every Christmas Eve in our house, we track Santa with NORAD - well I say we, but it's mostly me. My husband and teenage kids may watch a bit, but I check every hour and watch all the video clips -  Christmas doesn't start for me without a glimpse of the man himself in his sleigh pulled by reindeer - with Rudolph leading the way. But although he does seem to set off from the North Pole, NORAD are very careful not to give away his exact location!

Norad Tracks Santa
Why does NORAD track Santa? This You Tube video explains how in 1955 a little girl called the the Continental Air Defence Command telephone number by mistake, and asked the colonel on duty if he was Santa. The colonel explained that he wasn't, but that he had radar that could track him.  And the rest is history.....  Norad starts getting ready to track Santa on the 1st of December, and the main event starts on Christmas Eve of course, but they do have a great trailer.

And what about those fantastic reindeer - Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen - these are named in the brilliant The Night Before Christmas poem (originally called A Visit from St Nicholas). But what about Rudolph? Where did he come from? Apparently the story of Rudolph can be traced back to a specific author - Robert L. May, a cartoon - who created the idea of a misfit reindeer who saves the day for Santa on a foggy Christmas Eve, for a Christmas coloring book.... Or did he think it up all by himself? Maybe he saw Rudolph's flashing nose one Christmas.... and Santa asked him to tell the story....


  1. I've shared lots! Enjoyed reading it.... I believe too!

  2. Thank you so much Lesley - I appreciate you taking the time to read, share and comment. Have fun tracking Santa. Rudolph