Is Christmas actually celebrated at the North Pole? We think so. Examining this question lets you look at both actual and fictional geography.
The North Pole is not on land, actually, but on ice in international waters. The countries nearby include Canada, the United States (Alaska, specifically), Russia, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Santa Claus’s official address is in Finland. Here it is: Santa, c/o Arctic Circle, 96930 Rovaniemi, Finland. Use this address to practice writing letters. You won’t always get a response (things get busy at the old workshop this time of year), but sometimes you’ll receive a letter and perhaps even some stickers.
You can also type the address in at Google Earth and see photos of Santa’s hangout there in Lapland.
More resources for the North Pole:
- NOAA’s Arctic Theme Page includes the North Pole webcam, if you want to see what it looks like there.
- Lesson ideas for Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve?, a story involving folklore of the people living in the Arctic Circle.
- Quick facts from National Geographic
- Wolves, seals, and polar bears are the three Arctic animals in our Arctic Triptych lesson plans.
- Reindeer (we call them caribou when they live in North America) are another arctic animal worth studying.
- Polar animal writing page is a pdf file leading young students to write a sentence each about some polar animals and then to create a paragraph. It’s for little ones, but flexible — it could be a brainstorming tool for older elementary writers.
- Polar animals counting page for preschool or kindergarten features cute polar animals — there is a penguin, but there’s also a note to share with the kids explaining that the penguin lives at the South Pole. Do a little map or globe work to clarify.
- A lesson plan on the Inuit uses multiple intelligences and cooperative learning. A video lessons site also has a lot of resources.
- A website by and about the people of the Sami culture. The word “tundra” is from the language of this group of people living in Scandinavia.
- Read about how Christmas is celebrated in Greenland. In Finland, families clean their homes thoroughly and take steam baths in preparation for the holiday, and it is customary to feed the birds on Christmas morning before the family celebrates.
Once you’ve learned about the North Pole’s location and the people and other creatures living in the area, ask students to do some research on the ideas people have about Santa’s North Pole workshop.
My personal favorite is this image from Malcolm Bird and Alan Dart’s The Christmas Handbook, now out of print. Click a couple of times to enlarge it.
Students may remember a favorite story book illustration or perhaps a scene in a movie (I’m partial to the steampunk look of Santa Clause 2), the sets of a play they’ve taken part in, or a visit to one of the many Santa’s Workshop theme parks in the U.S. and elsewhere. Have students gather images, list shared characteristics they notice, and create their own version. Students might also research the villages of the Inuit, Vikings, or Sami for inspiration. Many visions of Santa’s workshop have Scandinavian design elements — though many also show the influence of Victorian England. Bring in as much art history as your class is ready for.
Finish up with a class mural or model of the residence of Santa Claus. Hey, send us a picture and we’ll post it, too!
Several of the resources we’ve linked here bring up the question of the decreasing sea ice. We wouldn’t bring this up with young children, but if you have older students, it might be intriguing to plan a solution for Santa in case the sea ice becomes too limited for the workshop.