10 Top places to feel the spirit of Christmas all year long

1 Rovaniemi, Finland: Establishing the provincial capital of Rovaniemi as Santa’s “official home town” 🎅 was much more of a calculated business decision that took decades. Rovaniemi and the surrounding area was the scene of fierce battles during WWII. Tourism proved the key to Finland’s economic reconstruction. But it wasn’t until the Finish tourism board, under pressure to boost visitors, decided in 1984 to market Lapland, as the official home of Santa Claus, that Finland truly embraced the legend. In December, the governor of Lapland, declared the province “Santa Claus Land” and the Santa Claus Village was opened just miles outside of Rovaniemi in 1985, complete with a post office 📬 that would frank mail with a special “Arctic Circle” postmark. Santa’s Village gets 500,000 visitors a year, including a growing number from China.

2 North Pole, Alsaka, USA: The North Pole is a real city located in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska. Originally called “Davis”, the name of this area was changed to North Pole in 1953. The founders believed that some toy manufacturer might be induced to locate a factory there so their products could be advertised as being made in North Pole. Also, someone might start a Santa Land which would become a northern version of Disneyland. The “Made in North Pole” endeavor failed to take off, but North Pole has continued to grow. There continues to be interest in developing North Pole as a theme city, “Where the spirit of Christmas lives year round”. The Santa Claus House, the “official” home of Santa Claus 🎅 greets all visitors who pass through the city on the Richardson Highway. Live reindeer and an opportunity for a photograph with Santa Claus at the Santa Claus House are available year round.

3 Drøbak, Norway: If you ask the Norvegians, Santa does not live in the North Pole but in Drøbak, a Christmas town in Norway. Winter or summer, this town just a short drive from Oslo has Christmas vibes all through the year. The city boasts of the Nordic region’s only Christmas house called Tregaarden’s Julehus which is open all 365 days of the year. Located right in the center of the town, you can find everything related to Christmas in this place. Santa’s 🎅 official Post Office 📬 is also located here and receives every year, thousands of letters from all over the world. But it is apparently Santa Claus’s cousin, Uncle Tom, who replies to each and every letter.

4 Santa Claus, Indiana, USA: Long before there were cars or vacations, there was Santa ClausIndiana. The town was originally named Santa Fee. When its citizens asked for a post office in 1856, they were told that Indiana already had a post office named Santa Fe and that if they wanted one they would have to change their town’s name. As the story goes, on Christmas Eve, the town held a meeting to decide what the name should be. During the meeting the doors of the building flew open and a little girl walks in. Inspired by the jingle of a Santa sleigh bell, she suggested they call the town ‘Santa Claus’. And so, the town became known as “Santa Claus”🎅. The town is known for its post office, where every year thousands of people come to write letters to Santa. So it comes as no surprise that Lake Rudolph Campground set up house here with Christmas-themed attractions.

5 North Pole, New York, USA: North Pole is actually a hamlet, in the town of Wilmington just about 12 miles from Lake Placid. North Pole’s main attraction is Santa’s Workshop 🎅 which is believed to be the nation’s oldest theme park opening in 1949.

6 Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA: On Christmas Eve 1741, in a stable, while a small group of Moravians were singing a hymn with the stanza “Not Jerusalem, Lowly Bethlehem” Count Nicolaus Ludwig Von Zinzendorf christened this little town “Bethlehem”. Since that time, Christmas in Bethlehem has been central to the city’s identity. High on South Mountain, a star 🎆 overlooks Bethlehem, PA guiding your way through. It has been the city’s symbol for 76 years and it’s an apt one.

7 Christmas, Florida, USA: The origin of the name isn’t as merry as it sounds. As tension grew between the settlers and the Seminoles (Indian tribe) over the signing of a treaty to move the Indians into a reservation, this exploded into outright resistance and a series of wars. Troops were sent and fortifications reinforced to contribute to the war effort. An excerpt from a journal states on December 27, 1837, “today we finished our fort which we called Fort Christmas 🎄, having commenced it on that day”. And it’s as simple as that!

8 Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada: In 1955, Santa’s Village 🎅 was established by a group of local businessmen who felt that Bracebridge was the appropriate location to set up Santa’s summer location because it is on the 45th parallel, halfway between the equator and the North Pole. Santa liked the idea so much that he had his elves build, not just a cottage, but a whole village to which he could invite everyone to come and experience the joy of Christmas all summer long in this unique 60-acre attraction. 

9 Rothenburg on der Tauber, Germany: So why is Rothenburg ob der Tauber considered to be Germany’s Christmas capital? Due to Käthe Wohlfahrt’s Christmas Museum situated above the Christmas shop of the same name, which shows the creation and development of Christmas customs. Here you can see historic Christmas trees, tree decorations and candle arches. At the entrance to the Christmas village, an oversized nutcracker and a red historic bus with gifts invite you to stop for a snapshot.

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0 Bethlehem, Israel: Though it sits at the heart of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, Bethlehem is first and foremost, of course, famous as the birthplace of Jesus. The site of the Nativity of Jesus was identified by St. Justin Martyr, a 2nd-century Christian apologist, as a manger in “a cave close to the village”; the cave, now under the nave of the Church of the Nativity in the heart of the town, has been continuously venerated by Christians since then. The Church of the Nativity is thus one of the oldest Christian churches extant divided between the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Armenian Orthodox faiths. No Christmas trees or blinking lights… The place of Christ’s birth is a dimly-lit rock cave. A 14-point silver star 🎇 on the marble floor of the Grotto of the Nativity bears the words “Hic de Virgine Maria Jesus Christus natus est” (Here Jesus Christ was born to the Virgin Mary).

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