Santa claws bared in homeland dispute

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The Independent Online
COPENHAGEN - Despite a July heatwave, the decorations included Christmas trees and tinsel and the menu offered Christmas cake and punch. But the row over where Santa Claus really lives spoilt the party.

More than 150 Santa Clauses from 10 countries, replete with red robes and white beards, gathered for the 31st Father Christmas World Congress in Denmark this week, but the dispute over the exact location of Father Christmas's abode soured the atmosphere of goodwill.

'As everybody knows, the only real Santa Claus lives in a castle of ice in Greenland near the North Pole. The legend clearly states this and Walt Disney said so,' said Greenland's Santa House marketing director, Frank Busk. 'The statutes of the congress stipulate that Santa's sole address is c/o North Pole, Greenland, and new Father Christmases have to solemnly accept this before we grant them certificates.'

Finnish Lappland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland also claim to be the true home of Father Christmas. The Finns, who have an Arctic Circle village for their Santa near the city of Rovaniemi, make the strongest pitch for tourist trade.

Mr Busk said Finland's Santa had been banned from attending the congress until last year, when he recognised Greenland's claim. But contacted in his Arctic hideout by Reuters, Finland's Santa said: 'I never recognised Greenland. They recognised me by inviting me.'

Unity was restored by the election of Heinz Preuss of Germany, the world's tallest Santa at six feet two inches, as the authorised Father Christmas of the Year.