If you believe the tourist boards' publicity, Father Christmas has homes all over the north lands. According to Greenland tourist board propaganda, he goes to his holiday home at Spraglebugten, near the northern town of Uummannaq, twice a year: in the early summer so that the reindeer can relax, while he goes out with a team of dogs to get in supplies; and in the autumn, when he has a short break before the Christmas rush. As I was having a short break in Greenland, too, I thought it churlish not to call in.
I asked the receptionist at my hotel how to get to Spraglebugten. Just go up the hill and follow the red arrows, she said. Oh, and take this with you. She gave me a key. I assumed it was for the main door of the hotel. But as I put it into my pocket, I noticed the name on the tag: Julmandenshaus. Father Christmas's house.
An hour's scrambling over rocks – thankfully, the snows had not yet begun – took me to the only house for miles around, built in a sublime location, on the edge of the fjord, out of sight of the nearby town. The house is built in the old Greenlandic style, from blocks of turf, but unlike traditional homes, this has a green-painted wooden porch and windows.
There were no signs of life, so I took the key from my pocket and let myself in. A hall area opened into one large room. On the desk by the front door was a poinsettia, and on the wall above it a photo which must have been Father Christmas when younger. He was wearing a red waistcoat and jacket, with red-and-white striped trousers, and he had a neatly trimmed, short, white beard.
The room was cosy. There was a stove in one corner. The table and chairs, and the bed, on a slightly raised platform at one end of the room, were covered in sealskin rugs. All around were odd Christmas decorations, some in wicker baskets. There were also several half-made toys. On the wall were family photos showing Santa with his wife and children – three sons and two daughters. If you're hoping for a decent present, I thought, it must help if your father's last name is Christmas.