400,000 pieces of mail are postmarked in the tiny town of Santa Claus, Indiana’s, post office each Christmas season. In addition, around 13,000 letters addressed to Santa Claus from children all over the United States are delivered here each year. It isn’t only during the holiday season that Santa Claus celebrates, though. The town embraces and capitalizes on its name, attracting tourists who come to celebrate Christmas year-round.
Originally called Santa Fee, the town was forced to change its name when it applied for a post office because the name too closely resembled the existing Indiana town of Santa Fe. There are several stories of how the name Santa Claus came to be, but the most popular is that during a meeting on Christmas Eve about renaming the town, a gust of wind blew the door open and the sound of sleigh bells was heard. A little girl yelled, “It’s Santa Claus!” and all agreed that’s what they would name the town.
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The Post Office Department started forwarding letters addressed to Santa to the Santa Claus post office in 1914, and the newly named postmaster, James Martin, began answering them. In 1931 the postmaster general tried to change the name of the town to alleviate the post office of the influx of letters to Santa, but the townspeople wouldn’t hear of it, and the name remained Santa Claus.
Today you’ll find many businesses in Santa Claus that focus on Christmas, like the Santa Claus Christmas Store; associate their names with Christmas, like the Holiday Foods grocery store; or simply display a holiday icon, like the Santa Claus statue outside the local Subway shop.
You’ll find plenty to do in Santa Claus to keep you busy, particularly in the summer months.
Santa Claus Christmas Store
Start your holiday shopping early in this 9,000 square foot store that’s everything Christmas. There seems to be no end to Christmas ornament displays, Santa statues line shelves high above, and the lights of Christmas village displays twinkle festively. Christmas ornaments designed exclusively for the Santa Claus Christmas Store make great souvenirs. Kids may even be able to visit with the jolly old elf himself when he’s not away at the North Pole. Purchase a Santa Claus postcard, address it and walk it down to the post office to have it mailed with the Santa Claus postmark.
Santa Claus Post Office
It looks like any other post office, but come November the Santa Claus post office will be flooded with Christmas cards sent to them to have the Santa Claus postmark applied. Postmaster Marian says 400,000 pieces of mail come through the post office during the holiday season when a specially designed giant red postmark is stamped on envelopes. If you take the mail to the post office in person, you may even be able to apply the postmark yourself. Outside of the holiday season, you won’t get the big, special postmark, but rather the regular round black one that shows your correspondence was mailed in Santa Claus, Indiana.
Approximately 10,000 letters to Santa are delivered to the post office each year. Postmaster Marian says if letters are addressed specifically to P.O. Box 1, Santa Claus, IN 47579, they will go to the elves to be answered. However, Emily Thompson, director of the Santa Claus Museum, says the elves get many letters other than those addressed to P.O. Box 1. It must be Christmas magic.
Santa Claus Museum and Village
Located in the area that was originally the heart of town before Santa Claus grew, the Santa Claus Museum takes you through the town’s history. See a diorama of Jim Yellig as Santa Claus. Yellig began assisting with replying to Santa letters in 1930 and was also the town Santa for over 40 years. Yellig sought the help of the American Legion to answer Santa letters and is credited with keeping the tradition alive. His daughter, Pat Koch, says her father didn’t play Santa, he was Santa.
The museum’s display of antique toys takes you back to a nostalgic yesteryear, and one room is devoted to the history of Santa Claus Land, the forerunner to today’s Holiday World Theme Park and Spashin’ Safari Water Park.
The original Santa Claus post office, used only until 1881, had previously been restored and used as the House of Dolls at Holiday World. In 2012 the building was moved to the Santa Claus Museum property and refurbished to resemble an old-fashioned post office.The building is equipped with a handful of old school desks where children may sit and write letters to Santa.
Children drop the letters into the elves’ mailbox and jingle the bells as a signal to the elves to pick them up. All letters that include a valid address will receive a return letter the following Christmas season.
Also on the museum property is a 22-foot tall, 40 ton concrete statue of Santa, constructed in 1935, as well as the Deutsch Evangelische St. Paul’s Kirche, also called Santa Claus Church. The church belonged to several denominations before being moved in 2012 from its original site about a half mile away to the museum property. The church is used for events like Christmas concerts and the Halloween Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari
Pay one price for admission to both Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari. The Holiday World Theme Park is divided into four holidays: Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween and the Fourth of July and offers thrilling rides and entertaining shows. Bring your swimsuit and cool off in the Splashin’ Safari’s Water Park.
Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort
Although I would technically consider it an accommodation, there is so much to do at Lake Rudolph that I’ve included it in this list of attractions. Ride paddle boats, play a round a mini golf, fish, or swim. Lake Rudolph even has its own small water park.
Santa Claus’ peak season is the summer when the holidays are furthest from most people’s minds. However, a visit to Santa Claus will put you in the holiday mood, no matter if it’s 90 degrees outside.
Santa Claus is located in southern Indiana. For information on more Santa Claus attractions, visit the Spencer County Visitors Bureau web site.
Disclosure: My visit to Santa Claus was hosted by the Spencer County Visitors Bureau. However, any opinions expressed in this post are my own.
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