Santa Claus, Indiana is often nationally recognized for its holiday-themed name, but how did the town get its name?

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Indiana's Christmas Town

If you're from the Southern Indiana region there's a good chance you're very familiar with the town of Santa Claus, but if you aren't it may seem odd that there is a town with such a Christmassy name.  There are often lists ranking "odd" city names across the U.S. and Santa Claus is almost always mentioned.  So how did this little southern Indiana town get its holiday-themed name?

The Town of Santa Claus, Indiana

Santa Claus, Indiana is a small town in southwestern Indiana with a population of just over 2,580 people (per the 2020 Census data).  Santa Claus is a popular tourist destination due to its Christmas theme all year long, and local theme park Holiday World and Splashin' Safari.  To understand how Santa Claus got its name, we have to go back more than 100 years to the 1850s.

Photo by Srikanta H. U on Unsplash
Photo by Srikanta H. U on Unsplash
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According to Santa Claus, Indiana, the town of Santa Claus was originally called Santa Fee.  When the town was big enough to apply for a post office in the 1850s the application was rejected because there was already a town named Santa Fe in the state of Indiana.  So the folks working to establish the town's first post office went back to the drawing board.

The legend of Santa Claus, Indiana goes as follows:

According to local legend, it was a cold December night in this small, rural area. The townsfolk were gathered in a small log church on Christmas Eve discussing a new name for their town. Several names were tossed around but nothing seemed to be the right fit. Children were running around playing while the adults were deep in discussion. Suddenly, a gust of wind blew open the church doors and the sound of sleigh bells drifted inside. The children ran to the door and shouted, "Santa Claus! Santa Claus!” The decision of what to name the town became clear. The name was accepted by the United States Post Office Department. The Santa Claus, Indiana, Post Office was established on May 21, 1856.

 

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A Long History of Christmas Letters

To this day the town of Santa Claus receives thousands of letters from children all over the world hoping to get their Christmas wishlists to Kris Kringle himself. There is a huge volunteer effort today where many elves take time out of their busy schedules to respond to letters on Santa's behalf.

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This tradition of Christmas letters from Santa Claus started in 1914 when the town's 14th postmaster (and honorary elf for Santa), James Martin began replying to kids' letters which kicked off this annual tradition.

You can read more about the history of the town of Santa Claus, here.

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