Santa's Travel: Santa Claus? Where's he when he's at home?

As you prepare to open up your chimney to its annual visitor and leave out mince pies and whisky (not forgetting a carrot for the reindeer), Simon Calder hunts for the home of Father Christmas.

Santa has more fixed abodes than the Royal Family. Any one-reindeer town, it seems, boasts a residence - including a place in west London, which is where the St Nicholas trail starts.

Travellers on some Eurostar trains to Paris and Brussels may be surprised to see their carriages bearing the motif "North Pole". Santa Claus is not commuting through the tunnel; this is merely the name of the Eurostar depot adjacent to Wormwood Scrubs. "North Pole" is a rather more catchy address than Her Majesty's Prison, certainly not the sort of place Santa would stay.

Father Christmas does have a postal address in Britain, and even a postcode of his own, but a red-nosed helper stresses that the last posting-date for this year has already passed - so no dispatches, please, to Santa, Reindeerland, SAN TA1. (Though it's never too early for 1998 - the first of this year's requests arrived in June.)

The physical manifestation of Reindeerland turns out to be a grotto in the corner of the Royal Mail's Returned Letter Centre in Belfast. "We're not saying he lives there - he just goes to collect his mail there," trills a spokes-elf.

The passengers in the queue at Heathrow's Terminal One this morning believe they know where Santa lives: at the end of the route of flight AY 836 to Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland (with a refuelling stop to take on mince pies in Helsinki). Santa is a significant employer in this part of northern Finland, which handily straddles the Arctic Circle. Indeed, a sceptical Scrooge could point out that snowball fights occasionally break out between different factions of the Santa empire. Sweden and Norway, too, claim to be the first Noel location of choice for St Nicholas, while the Danish post office redirects some letters addressed to Santa c/o Greenland to a sorting office in Odense.

As Cathy Packe explains (previous page), postal workers in Greenland help Santa to answer a number of letters equivalent to about half the national population.

Maybe the sparsity of human habitation in the northern lands means the load has to be shared out across the Atlantic.

American kids' letters to Santa disappear up the figurative chimney to North Pole, Alaska - population 1,500 - and a suburb south east of Fairbanks. Maybe Santa lives on one of the streets here - Santa Claus Lane, St Nicholas Drive or Rudolf Street.

Or perhaps he prefers Canadian citizenship. His maple-leaf helpers are based in Winnipeg. This is further from the true North Pole than is Cornwall, but to strengthen the Canadians' case, Reindeer River and Reindeer Lake are north of here (close to Moose Jaw and Ear Falls, which sound like winter complaints among the reindeer).

Farther on, though, is the Great Slave Lake - and while Santa does not adhere slavishly to the European Commission Directive on Working Hours, particularly on Christmas Eve, he is a sleigh-driver rather than a slavedriver.

The final candidates are the places where he was born and grew up, close to where half a million Brits went on holiday this year.

On the southern coast road of Turkey, between the charter airports of Dalaman and Antalya, stands Patara. St Nicholas was born here around AD300, and later moved to the ancient city of Myra, near present-day Demre. The Lycian rock-tombs were already centuries old when St Nicholas became bishop of Myra in the fourth century AD.

As the Blue Guide to Turkey solemnly relates, "The Church of St Nicholas is on the W side of Demre, about 150m from the main square. In a small garden to the left of the entrance, there is a rather incongruous statue of the saint in the persona of Santa Claus complete with a sack of presents and a mob of children."

Humbug, you may say.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Early Years Teachers Required

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Early Years Teachers ...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

Qualified Early Years Teachers Required

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualifed Early Years ...

Do you want to work in Education?

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energetic gradu...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little