As an official Helper to Santa Claus, I have to be ready for the questions, such as: Does Santa really live at the North Pole -- and why?
An easy explanation is that Santa’s address is The North Pole because it’s on top of the globe, in international waters, making him a Citizen of the World, rather than a single country. Children today are likely sophisticated enough to know that if you went to that part of the Arctic ice, you would find no workshop or elves. But they would also understand that for security reasons, the North Pole Complex would be in a secret place, hidden somewhere near Greenland, Canada or Norway (to not appear to be “taking sides” in international politics if discovered, Alaska and Russia are unlikely). There’s also the hidden Antarctica facility -- by treaty, the continent belongs to nobody -- but most of the world’s population is on the top half, which makes this logistically impractical.
St. Nicholas’s move to the far North is more recent than most people realize. At a time when Napoleon marched across Europe, where every little country had an aspiring emperor of its own, the ancient saint sought out a place where it would be easier to contemplate true Peace on Earth. The region of his birth, then part of the Ottoman Empire, would not do, and as he was venerated in both Rome and Constantinople, it was best to get away from the noise of the prayers in his name. Thus he felt compelled to travel northward.
As he made his way through Scandinavia, the Patron Saint of Children and Gift-Giving attracted the attention of the magical beings there. Odd how the passing of time affects a man; it was once said he got in a fistfight over Church doctrine, yet he found himself comfortable with the legacies of the Old Gods. Nicholas made it clear, though, that he would not serve them, but the One True God.
“Serve us?” they laughed back. “Over the centuries, you have become one of us! But your insistence on clinging to humanity, of being one who serves rather than is served, by that way you may outlive us all.”
Some say a man traveled with him, an African, his former servant.
“Just as all men are free in Christ, I gave you your freedom long ago,” Nicholas said to him. “Why do you still follow me?”
“My people are not free,” Peter replied. “So I stand with you, where I can stand as an equal.”
As the fjords gave way to the sea, the magical folk who joined them -- elves, gnomes, fae, etc. -- helped continue the journey. Local reindeer were enchanted to carry the party to the distant icy wilderness.
The trek across the frozen wasteland went surprisingly smoothly. And it somehow didn’t surprise Nicholas when he was greeted at the Pole by the patchwork man.
“Gruss Gott!” the tall figure smiled. “The voices in the Northern Lights told me you were coming. I’ve been making ready.” He gestured around him. The materials from a hundred shipwrecks were taking shape as a village of residences and workshops. As also the patron saint of sailors, Nicholas appreciated the significance of this.
“I am Adam,” the man said. “I see you are like me, you cannot die. But for you, it is not a curse.”
“All are blessed today,” Nicholas responded, hardly noticing Adam’s scars and conflicting skin tones. The patchwork man, in turn, looked into a face that, in the glow of the Aurora Borealis, constantly changed appearance, color and form -- a loving grandfather to every child on earth.
Peter and the elves immediately started unpacking the sleighs. Soon fires would be lit, shelters would be completed, and enchanted planter boxes would occupy the makeshift greenhouse. Adam had carved caverns to the sea below for fishing. They would be self-sufficient.
“No other man has been here,” Adam said.
“Not yet,” Nicholas replied. “In the next century, there will be adventurers arriving at the Pole. We will have to move to keep our solitude, our sanctuary.”
“Svalbard, Norway, Russia, Canada, Greenland,” Adam gestured around him. “We have the world to choose from.”
“And they will have us,” St. Nicholas said. “My mission will continue when darkness comes, at my Feast Day. But for now, this is our Polaris. Our home.”
- - - - -Entry for LJ Idol: Season Eleven, Week 6; Topic: My True North. The author (Beldar) is a member of the International Brotherhood of Real-Bearded Santas. Notes:Setting is 1800s, when the North Pole first made its appearance in stories of Santa Claus. “Black Peter” is still part of the Santa celebration in the Netherlands (stirring a lot of controversy). “Gruss Gott”, literally translated “Greet God”, is a friendly greeting in parts of Germany. And if you don’t recognize Adam, you likely know him more by his adopted last name.