65 Years of Holiday Tradition
November 25th, 2017 by Dianna Troyer

Santa and Mrs. Claus check on one of eight reindeer stabled adjacent to Santa Claus House.
Photos courtesy of Santa Claus House

Christmas is a year-round snowy celebration at
North Pole, Alaska

As a boy, Paul Brown remembers how the radiance and warmth of Santa Claus House could take the edge off dark, subzero December days in North Pole, Alaska.

“Santa Claus House seemed larger than life,” he says.

Now 37, Paul sees the 9,000-square-foot gift emporium at 101 St. Nicholas Drive from an adult perspective as its operations manager.

While growing up in nearby Fairbanks, Paul’s family often drove 20 minutes to North Pole as part of their holiday traditions.

The town of 2,200 has the slogan “Where the Spirit of Christmas Lives Year-Round.” Street lights are decorated like candy canes, and streets have holiday themes for names. The North Pole Post Office receives more than 400,000 Santa letters from children annually.

At the entrance of Santa Claus House, the world’s tallest Santa welcomes visitors, standing nearly 50 feet tall and weighing about 900 pounds. Nearby, eight reindeer munch hay in a corral.

Paul says the staff of nearly 50 strives to help visitors make their own heart-warming holiday memories, like he did as a youngster.

“We have hundreds of thousands of people from around the world coming here every year,” he says.

Inside the house, holiday music mingles with the scents of fudge and hot chocolate. Christmas trees twinkle with lights and ornaments. From his chair, Santa Claus visits with children.

“For us, Christmas is about spending time with family and friends in the spirit of the season,” Paul says. “We want people to relax and enjoy the experience of being here.”

Next to Santa Claus House, children play in an ice park called Christmas in Ice, slipping down ice slides and navigating an ice-block maze.

Erected after Thanksgiving for six weeks, the park also features ice sculptures of elaborate holiday characters illuminated with lights.

North Pole’s holiday season finale is a fireworks display at the park on New Year’s Eve.

After the holiday season ends this year, Santa Claus House will close to complete an expansion. The facilities reopen May 1.

“Our visitation has increased so much that we needed about 17,000 square feet,” Paul says. “We’ll have more room to interact with Santa and are planning a few surprises in his workshop, too.”

Paul says the growth would please Con and Nellie Miller, who established the business as a trading post in 1952.

“I think they would be stunned at what it’s become,” he says. “What started out as a local trading post has become a world-famous landmark.”

Con was a trader and dressed as Santa to visit villages.

“When he was constructing the store here, some kids recognized him as Santa and asked if he was building a new house,” Paul says. “That’s how it was named. He and Nellie used to answer thousands of Santa letters by hand.”

The town was named North Pole and incorporated in 1953 in hopes of attracting a toy manufacturer. Although no toy business opened, Santa Claus House has bolstered North Pole’s economy ever since.

“We’re honoring the tradition of the Millers’ friendliness, commitment to the community, and keeping the enchantment and joy of the holiday season alive,” Paul says.