Ho Ho Holy Christmas, Canada. We’ve found ourselves embroiled in a debate over whether Santa Claus is a Canuck. And a faint and forgotten Canada Post outpost may help prove it.
While there is nothing harmful about a tongue-in-cheek holiday conversation about what country truly holds claim to a jolly old elf that flies around the world giving toys to children, this one is somewhat concerning. Because some people have sprinkled a dash of legitimate, serious credence onto the debate.
With several countries suddenly very concerned about who gets to mine, pump and strip natural resources out of the Arctic Circle, there are suddenly some real-world repercussions to what flag hangs from the top of the North Pole.
Last week, Canada submitted a claim to the United Nations that much of the Arctic Circle rests on a seabed belonging to our continental shelf. That swath of claimed land does not include the North Pole itself, but further claims are expected to be filed.
Russia responded by announcing a military buildup in its Arctic bases. At least two other countries, the U.S. and Denmark, have their own designs on resource-rich Arctic territory.
So when the House of Commons broke into a debate over Santa’s nationality, with Conservative MP Paul Calandra claiming the Liberals and NDP were not protecting Santa’s Canadian citizenship and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau asserting that “everyone knows that Santa Claus is Canadian,” it was no laughing matter.
Surely, if a country could provide undeniable proof that Santa Claus belonged to them, they would secure ownership of the North Pole as well.
Alaskans have previously claimed Santa for the U.S., although Bruce Heyman, America’s next Canadian ambassador, says he is a global citizen protected by NORAD.
The Telegraph’s Tim Stanley cheekily claimed Santa for England, stating:
Santa is not only British but he's decent, down-to-Earth British trash. Why? Because he's chronically obese, only works one day a year, and if he drinks just half the sherry left out for him on a Christmas Eve then he obviously doesn't think twice about drinking and driving.
But it turns out Canada’ claim to the North Pole has the weight of bureaucratic legalese behind it, thanks to the currently-struggling Canada Post mail system.
The National Post’s Joe O’Connor shared the story this week of 92-year-old Jack MacKenzie, who in 1999 trekked to the North Pole during a bucket list kind of moment. As part of that trip, he established a presence for the Canada Post by planting a flag adorned with the postal code “H0H 0H0.”
“I unfurled the flag — and laid it out — and opened the post office,” MacKenzie told the Post. “When we talk about Arctic sovereignty, or Santa, we’ve got a better shot than most at having a legitimate claim because we’ve got a post office in the North Pole.”
Sadly for the claim, Canada is not the only country to have a mail outpost in the Arctic. Finland has a Santa Claus Post Office on the outskirts of Rovaniemi in the Arctic Circle.
A recent story in the Telegraph suggests that it responds to 550,000 letters to Santa from around the world every year, including errant mail from children in other countries.
“Under normal circumstances, letters with an address as vague as 'Santa, North Pole’ would be marked as undeliverable and condemned with an addressee unknown stamp, but the post offices in many countries tend to forward Santa letters to Finland even if they are not stamped,” the story claims.
That said, many other countries have their own system to delivering mail to Santa. Canadian children can mail him by using “Santa Claus, North Pole, H0H 0H0, Canada,” although one wonders whether MacKenzie’s North Pole outpost receives the mail directly.
In America, children can write to Santa by using the address "Santa Claus, North Pole, Alaska." There is, in fact, an Alaskan town called North Pole, which celebrates itself as the place where "the spirit of Christmas lives year round."
British children are invited to write to Santa at "Santa/Father Christmas, Santa’s Grotto, Reindeerland, XM4 5HQ." Considering the Brits don't hold any claim to the actual North Pole, their insistence that Santa receives letters in a place called Reindeerland is somewhat forgivable.
So while the story of Canada’s postal presence in the North Pole is a heartwarming tale, it doesn’t do much to assert Santa’s Canadian nationality. For that we’ll need hope, faith, Christmas spirit and a poorly-conceived Santa photo-op at a Canada Day citizenship ceremony.