Smithsonian Journeys Dispatches

Five Things We Didn’t Know About Santa Claus

12th-century stained glass from the Canterbury Cathedral

We all know Santa. He's the big guy in a red suit, has a white bushy beard, laughs a lot, and likes the occassional plate of cookies and milk. But even those of us at the Smithsonian don't know everything about this magical man, and we do research here all year round. So we decided to go a little deeper to find the things we didn't know about Mr. Kris Kringle.

  1. Santa has more than one home. Americans know about his headquarters at the North Pole, but others in the Scandinavian region know Father Christmas has a home in the mountains of Korvatunturi in Lapland Province, Finland as well as other secret locations in the region. He is also known to use vacation time in North Pole, Alaska, where there is a Wendy's restuarant with a reindeer "fly through".

  2. Santa Claus owns suits in other colors besides red and white. As a saint he has worn religious robes and clothing in a variety of colors through the centuries, particularly his favorite green cloak. It is widely believed it wasn't until the 1930s when artist Haddon Sundblom created a new public image of Santa for Coca-Cola that the red and white suit became iconic with the man. But the Coca-Cola Company wasn't the first to use his image to sell a drink. White Rock Beverages also used his image to sell mineral water and ginger ale about fifteen years before the Coca-Cola Company did.

  3. The idea that he gets stuck in chimneys is an urban myth. Originally, he would sneak into homes to leave coins and gifts for the family. But when people locked their doors, he went through the window. When they locked their window, he threw coins down the chimney. Part of what makes Santa so special is that he is, at heart, an elf - which makes him small enough to fit down the chimney to leave his gifts.

  4. Santa enjoys other foods besides cookies and milk. Although that is his known favorite when he is traveling in the United States, he also enjoys rice pudding in Sweden, sherry and mince pies in Australia and Britain, and a pint of Guinness in Ireland. Most children in a variety of countries also leave a nice snack of carrots for his team of reindeer.

  5. Officially, Santa Claus is a Canadian citizen. His North Pole home and headquarters, according to the Canada Post, lies within Canadian jurisdiction and has a postal code of H0H 0Ho. On December 23, 2008, Jason Kenney, Canada's minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, formally awarded Canadian citizenship status to Santa Claus. In an official statement, the minister said "The Government of Canada wishes Santa the very best in his Christmas Eve duties and wants to let him know that, as a Canadian citizen, he has the automatic right to re-enter Canada once his trip around the world is complete."

You can read more straight from Santa Claus himself in his autobiography.

Where will you be celebrating the holidays this year?

May we suggest Canterbury, England? This tour provides an authentic English Christmas experience and the cathedral is beautiful!