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What it's like to live in Santa Claus, Indiana - the world's most Christmassy town

We spoke to some residents of the town where it’s 25 December every day of the year.

santaclausindiana Source: Town of Santa Claus

IN THE HILLS of Indiana, right in the centre of the American mid-west, is the town of Santa Claus, population: 2,479.

Back in the 1850s, the town’s first few dozen inhabitants (German settlers) named their community Santa Fe, but when they tried to register it with it the US Postal Service, they rejected it, because there was already a Santa Fe, 180 miles away in Indiana.

There are several accounts of how residents settled on “Santa Claus,” but the best is the one offered in the town’s official history.

Residents of the area had spent months trying to select a name for the community but none of the proposed names carried universal appeal.

Then, on Christmas Eve, as the congregation gathered at the church for yet another meeting, the sound of bells was heard outside. “Santa!”, a jubilant child rang out, “It’s Santa Claus.”

“That’s it!”, shouted one of the elders. “Why not call it Santa Claus?” The residents all agreed and the town of Santa Claus was born.

Mike Johannes, President of Santa Claus Town Council, told TheJournal.ie that the name was borne out of frustration, as much as festive cheer.

The postmaster sent in another name, and the Postal Service said it can’t be that, so he sent in another name, and they said it can’t be that either.
Out of frustration, he sent in the name Santa Claus, as kind of a joke.

Now, 160 years later, the town is a booming, Christmas-themed cottage industry, with Santa’s Candy Castle, the Santa Claus Museum, and most importantly, the post office, at North Kringle Place.

Santa-Claus-Post-Office-Exterior-Winter_4 (1) Source: Town of Santa Claus

As you can imagine, the town’s name has always brought in a huge influx of letters from children who – in their excitement – forget to address them properly.

Back in the early 1900s, postmaster James Martin began writing back to the children, adding a special “Santa Claus” postmark to each envelope.

At one point, in the 1930s, the US Postal Service once again asked for the name of the town to be changed, because of the flood of post every Christmas season.

Now, however, the town responds to about 13,000 letters every year, and is inundated with visitors who travel from miles around to get their own Christmas cards and gifts stamped with the Santa Claus postmark, which has a new design each year.

2015postmark-border The special 2015 postmark to be stamped on cards and gifts sent from Santa Claus, Indiana. Source: Town of Santa Claus

Miriam Balbach, the current postmaster, told TheJournal.ie staff were “busy, busy, busy” this year, with volunteers called “Santa’s Elves” replying to each letter.

The streets and place names of Santa Claus read like a story told by Buddy from the movie Elf: Carol Drive, Frosty Lane, Christmas Boulevard, Candy Cane Lane, and Sleigh Bell Drive.

One section of the town has a street named after all Santa’s reindeer, except Rudolph, who gets a lake, campground and boulevard.

santaclausstreets Source: Google Maps

According to Johannes, who has lived in Santa Claus for 25 years, the town sees its biggest explosion of tourists not during December, but rather in the summer months.

From May to October we see about 1.2 million people, in a town of 2,500. In a big day, we’ll have 25,000 in the Holiday World [amusement] park.
During the Christmas season, we have three weekends where we do a lot of Christmas events, and that probably averages about 5,000 people per weekend.

The Holiday World amusement park was originally called Santa Claus Land, and opened 364 days a year – Johannes explains that the park would every close Christmas Day “because Santa had to go and do other things.”

Now, it features sections for Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Independence Day.

What’s it like to live there?

File:Santa claus, in.JPG Santa Claus Town Hall Source: Wikipedia

The town’s economy is absolutely driven by the amusement parks and Christmas-themed tourist attractions, and many of Santa Claus’s residents live in a gated community called Christmas Lake Village.

By all accounts, you might want to avoid the town if you hate the-season-to-be-jolly.

And whether you regard it as wonderful or nightmarish, some unique things happen in Santa Claus, Indiana.

“There is an experience here that you’re not going to get anywhere else,” says Mike Johannes.

For example, he adds, “There are some people who decorate inside and outside their house all the time, like it’s Christmas.”

Santas-Lodge-Winter_9 Santa's Lodge, on West Chrismas Boulevard, Santa Claus, Indiana. Source: Town of Santa Claus

One story illustrates the bizarre version of reality that the children of Santa Claus, in particular, inhabit.

We have Santa at the park. And he’s not fake Santa, he is Santa – he spends six months here and the other six months in the North Pole. And Santa likes to play golf.

For years, Johannes says, he played golf with Santa every Thursday, and after one of these games, his then six-year-old son conducted a very concerned interrogation.

“Dad, did you play golf with Santa today?” And I said, ‘Sure.’
“Dad, did you beat Santa?” And I said, “Yeah, he likes to play, but he’s not very good.”
“Did you beat Santa by 30 strokes?” And I said, “Yeah.”
And my son looked at me in all seriousness and said, “Dad, I’m never gonna get another Christmas present, as long as I live.”

Do you ever get sick of it?

Christmas-Lake-Village-Festival-Of-Lights_52 A house along the nine miles of continuous Christmas lights in Christmas Lake village. Source: Town of Santa Claus

“I don’t,” says Johannes.

I’ve been here for 25 years, and it’s completely in me – I’m infected. I don’t know anybody in town who’s a Grinch. People who live here really are very positive about it.

Miriam Balbach, who oversees what must be the busiest and most hectic small town post office in the world, grew up 10 miles from Santa Claus, and says anyone who moves here “knows going in” what living there involves.

The town is called Santa Claus, and everything around it is related [to that.]
If you thought you weren’t going to be able to tolerate Christmas all year round, you shouldn’t be here.

Read: 15 children who are scared sh*tless of Santa>

Read: American school builds insane 67-foot Singing Christmas Tree made of 275 children>

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About the author:

Dan MacGuill

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