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Santa Claus and the North Pole

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The North Pole is a real place, one that is very cold and very barren. The idea of Santa Claus living there and/or having a toy workshop there has a long and uncertain history.

As the image of Santa morphed from a kindly bishop who walked all over the place into a jolly driver of a sleigh powered by flying reindeer, the idea of Santa's living in a cold place took hold. Reindeer, once found all over Europe, were to be found in recent times only in colder climates. So if Santa had reindeer at his disposal, then Santa must live in a cold climate.

The idea of Santa and the reindeer was cemented in the minds of many a reader by the publication of the Clement C. Moore poem that came to be known as "The Night Before Christmas." This poem, the real title of which was "A Visit from Saint Nicholas," appeared in a New York newspaper in 1823. Several years later, an illustrator for the magazine Harper's Weekly, Thomas Nast, began to create illustrations of the Santa Claus described in Moore's poem. In a two-decade period, Nast created more than 2,000 illustrations of the Santa Claus story. Nast included now-familiar elements such as the reindeer and the chimney navigation. Nast also saw fit to add elements of his own, and one of these was the idea that Santa lived at the North Pole. An 1879 illustration showed a young girl mailing a letter addressed to Santa, at the North pole. Another illustration showed Santa sitting on a box that had this inscription: "Saint Nicholas, North Pole." Yet another illustration showed Santa in his workshop, surrounded by toy-making elves. In another illustration, Nast showed a map from the North Pole to the United States, showing that path that Santa and the reindeer would take on Christmas Eve. Along about this time, George P. Webster published a collection of Nast's illustrations, adding more prose about the North Pole and just how cold it was and how much Santa liked it.

Today, children by the thousands write and mail letters addressed to Santa Claus, North Pole. This is the case in America and in Canada, which says that Santa's post code is H0H 0H0 (which, if you run the characters together, spells out "Ho Ho Ho.")

Other countries that are close to the North Pole lay claim to Santa's residence as well. Among these are Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Finland has a far-north area named Lapland, where reindeer still live.


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