Why Does Santa Live At The North Pole?

Did you know that there is no time zone at the North Pole? And there are no permanent settlements there, mainly because there is no land mass, only ice sheets that range from 6 -10 feet thick. The Soviets established a research camp there in 1937 but abandoned it a year later.

In the early 20th century, the North Pole was one of the last places on Earth yet to be “discovered.” That changed in 1909 when, in the same September week, newspapers reported that not one but two explorers had made it to the top of the world. The famous American explorer Robert E. Peary claimed to have reached his destination in April 1909, his eighth attempt. But another American explorer, Frederick E. Cook, came out of nowhere to claim he was first in April 1908, a full year before Peary. This question is still unresolved.

Saint Nicolas

What we can agree on is that Santa Claus is by far the North Pole’s most famous resident, but he didn’t always live within the Arctic Circle. His story has evolved. Saint Nicholas, the 4th-century religious figure from whom the myth of Santa Claus is derived, came from Myra, a Roman town in what is now Turkey. But in the mid-1800s, American cartoonist Thomas Nast began depicting the saintly character as we know him today: fat, jolly, and with a sack full of toys.

Thomas Nast

Because a flurry of American and European expeditions to the Arctic captured the world’s imagination around the same period, Nast selected the fabled location for Santa’s permanent home.

In 1990, Department 56 Village designer, Neilan Lund decided to capture the myth and the story of Santa Claus with the introduction of the “North Pole Village” for Department 56. After Neilan’s retirement, his daughter, Village designer Barbara Lund took over and found that this Village had no boundaries – “anything goes. It really is up to everyone’s imagination what the place where Santa lives looks like.” And with that, the elves, the various workshops and cleverly designed factories were created.

North Pole Village

As early as 2000, current Village designer, Paul Lundberg, was assigned to draw a piece that represented a model train shop, and “Toot’s Model Train Mfg.” was created. It contained animation never used in this Village before, a tiny train circling the smokestack. This piece has long been a favorite among “North Pole Village” collectors and was the Silver Anniversary piece for Department 56’s big companywide celebration in 2001.

Artist Paul Dunn

Going forward, Paul was the obvious choice to design many of the licensed pieces for this Village until Barbara decided to retire in 2019. Then Paul took over the design of everything for this very popular Village.

He has a special feel for what collectors like in the Village and continues to listen carefully to their many ideas.

When we peeked into his studio, we caught a glimpse of a few things that he is currently working on for 2024 and beyond. “If only the walls could talk …”


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