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Greetings From Small-Town America: North Pole, Alaska

Visit the town of North Pole, Alaska, where you can visit the Santa Claus house, candy-cane light posts and a 42-foot statue of ol’ Saint Nick.

North Pole, Alaska; photo by Eric Engman
Credit: 2022 Eric Engman
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“Can we go to North Pole, to Santa Claus’s House? Please?” my daughter, Aurora, begs.

The city of North Pole (population: 2,243)—not to be confused with Earth’s geographic north pole, some 1,700 miles to the north—was incorporated in 1953. With its candy-cane light posts and streets such as Kris Kringle Drive, this community has embraced its Christmassy name.

The Santa Claus House that Aurora loves was opened in 1952 by Con and Nellie Miller, who sold groceries and other necessities. The soda fountain became a gathering place and even served as North Pole’s first post office.

These days, Santa Claus House—still owned by the Miller family—stocks shelves with Christmas treasures. There’s also a sweet shop, a 42-foot-tall Santa statue and the Antler Academy, where visitors can meet Santa’s reindeer team.

Down St. Nicholas Drive is Santa’s Letters, a nonprofit organization that ensures the Dear Santa letters delivered to the town post office are read and answered. In 2021, they replied to 16,000 letters from all over the world!

Volunteers from local businesses and organizations gather for signing events, including at churches. “We love helping communities and helping kids,” says Sharon Beeman, vice president of Santa’s Letters. “That’s what it’s really all about.”

Gwen Brazier is also all about helping kids. She moved to North Pole as a child, when her father was in the U.S. Air Force and stationed there. After landing a lead part in North Pole Elementary’s production of The Littlest Christmas Tree, Gwen soon decided to become a music teacher. She got her degree in 2009 and has been teaching in North Pole and nearby Fairbanks schools ever since.

Winters are long, dark and cold. They can be isolating. But music connects people. “It’s a bridge builder,” Gwen says. “There are so many different perspectives in our world. Music makes it possible to share that with kids while creating something beautiful and important for others to enjoy.”

Then there’s Santa Claus himself. Mr. Claus (his legal name) is a clergyman and monk who has lived in North Pole since 2013. This two-term city councilman was a previous member of the Alaska Public Broadcasting Commission and past president of the chamber of commerce. Mr. Claus’s ministry and advocacy work is focused on child health, safety and welfare, as well as helping other vulnerable people.

He’s not a fan of what he calls the “crass, commercial and secular spectacle” of Christmas; after all, it’s the act of giving, not receiving, that’s important. As Mr. Claus says, “In a world that often feels gripped by fear, love is the greatest power and the greatest gift of all.”

Aurora and I couldn’t agree more.

Visit our North Pole, Alaska, photo gallery!

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