What's it like living in a town that celebrates Christmas year-round?
Yes, such a place exists — and it's aptly called "North Pole." While it may not be situated all the way at the top of the world, the quaint Alaskan city, home to just around 2,000 residents, gives the real North Pole a run for its money.
For starters, Santa Claus really does live there. Well, sort of. A man with a long beard whose legal name is Santa Claus calls this North Pole his home, and even serves on the City Council.
Santa Claus Lane, St. Nicholas Drive, Snowman Lane, and Kris Kringle Drive are all real street names in the town, there are candy cane motifs everywhere, and the town's ambulances are bright red, while police cars are a festive green-and-white.
Most thrilling of all? In December each year, the post office in the city receives hundreds of thousands of letters addressed to the man with the bag. And every single one gets read.
TODAY went to North Pole to search for Santa. But while we were there, we caught up with some local townsfolk to learn more about what it's like living in such a unique place.
"We're Michelle Daml and Ed Daml, and we're the King and Queen of the North Pole. We're basically the ambassadors of the city for a year, and this tradition's been going on for 44 years. So, you know, we get to represent and promote North Pole! It's great. How it works is, you're nominated within the community, and after that, a board of regents from former kings and queens vote on you. We love living here. We really do have that spirit of Christmas all year. Everyone embraces the candy canes, the red and white ... all of it. And the fact that we, well, live with Santa Claus."
"My name is Phil Zastrow. Why do I like living in North Pole? Well, it's always Christmas. I like Christmas."
"Bethany Spence. I moved here in 2008, and I'm the administrative secretary at North Pole Elementary. Christmas has a special place in our hearts here, part of which is because here at the school, we're on Snowman Lane and two streets away from Santa Claus Lane. But really, we just make sure that everyone feels welcome and warm for the holidays, regardless of what their religious beliefs are. North Pole's a special place.
"I'm Buddy Lane, the Fire Chief for the City of North Pole. So I'm Santa Claus' fire chief! Only, it's really true. And I so enjoy living here. It's a small community ... a tight-knit community. Holding onto the Christmas spirit all year is nice. And the people here are fantastic. I came up as a child because my family was in the military and we were stationed around here. We made North Pole our home in 1973. I went through school out here, and then I stayed. A couple years ago my wife organized the candle-lighting ceremony — that's something we hold in December. It's a Christmas program, and we light candles for unity and that kind of stuff."
"I'm Lisa Casey, a second-grade teacher at North Pole Elementary. We love living here because the community's really built around the spirit of Christmas, however silly that sounds. It really feels like the holidays all year."
"I'm Steve Adamczak. I love North Pole. Been here 35 years. Came up from New York state where I was a dairy farmer with my dad. The cold's just fun. You can dress for the cold, you can enjoy the cold ... it's great."
"I'm Bryce Ward, North Pole's mayor. I really enjoy being the mayor because of the people. It goes beyond Christmas as a day and really encapsulates the spirit of it more than anything. That's what makes it a special town ... everyone's generosity, kindness, and willingness to help each other."
"Jeff Ward, Bryce Ward's dad. He's now the mayor of North Pole, on his second term, and I'm really proud of him."
"My name's Chris Illingworth, and I'm the counselor at North Pole Elementary. I've been at this school for 23 years. We moved up here when I was in sixth grade because my dad was in the military. People are really kind to each other here. We have Santa Claus on the City Council now, you know. But really, it's different than other parts of the country, actually, because if your car breaks down and it's 44 below, you really would have to hope your neighbor helps you out. It's a potential matter of life and death. Maybe that's why the Christmas spirit matters so much around here. People are used to talking to each other, helping each other, and in a community this size, you get used to that. So it really goes beyond religion."
"My name is Rikki Homchick. I was born in the military, raised pretty much in Hawaii. But I knew ever since I was 8 years old that I wanted to live in Alaska. I just remember seeing something and saying to myself, I'm going to live in Alaska some day. Then, I joined the Air Force, and the military brought me up to North Pole when I was 28. I've been up here for 28 years since then."
"My name is Audrey Wineland. We're an Air Force family. It's wonderful living somewhere where my little one can meet Santa. But, you know ... the real Santa."
"Ho, ho, ho. Merry Christmas!"