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9 Towns Across the World With Christmas-Themed Names

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In some towns, Christmas doesn’t only come once a year. In Christmas, Michigan, it’s a year-round presence. And that’s not the only municipality with a December 25-inspired name. Here are nine places named for Christmas across the globe:

1. SANTA CLAUS, INDIANA

A statue of Santa Claus stands above a ‘Welcome to Santa Claus, Indiana’ sign.

TENGRRL, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

There are actually several places in the U.S. named after St. Nick, but only one of them is famous for the Santa Claus postmark. That’s Santa Claus, Indiana, a city of just under 2500 people located in the southwest portion of the state. When settlers created the town in the mid-1800s, they were going to name it Santa Fe—but since another Indiana town already had that name, when the residents gathered one Christmas Eve to decide upon its permanent moniker, they went with the seasonally appropriate Santa Claus. Now, the city calls itself “America’s Christmas Hometown” and boasts Yuletide attractions like the Santa Claus Museum and Village, a hotel called Santa’s Lodge, the Santa Claus Christmas Store, and Santa’s Candy Castle, which claims the title of the first themed attraction in the U.S. Not to mention all the letters to Santa its post office receives each December.

2. BARRA DE NAVIDAD, MEXICO

A view from offshore of a beach in Barra de Navidad, Mexico.
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Barra de Navidad, Jalisco, a beach town on Mexico’s Pacific coast, is located along a sandbar—hence its name, which means Christmas Sandbar. The mellow town of about 5000 people was once a hub for Spanish ships. It was originally named Puerto de Navidad because the first Spanish explorers who landed there in the 1500s arrived on Christmas Day. The name was changed to Barra de Navidad once the town on the sandbar was built. Now, it's a fishing village and popular tourist destination whose picturesque beaches make it a perfect late-December getaway for those trying to flee cold weather.

3. CHRISTMAS, MICHIGAN

A sign reads ‘Welcome to Christmas, Michigan.’
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Christmas, Michigan, home to just 400 residents, was named for the holiday gift factory once located there. The town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is now a popular recreation area for snowmobile aficionados, and it takes full advantage of its Christmas legacy. With roadside Santa statues and its Santa-themed stores and signs, Christmas will never let you forget which holiday it’s named after.

4. NATAL, BRAZIL

A view across the skyline of Natal, Brazil
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Natal, which means Christmas in Portuguese, is a state capital on the easternmost tip of Brazil, and serves as South America’s closest point to Africa. Built just outside a 16th-century Portuguese fort called the Fortress of the Three Wise Men (also called the Three Kings Fortress), the city was founded on December 25, 1599. It has since become a popular beach destination for Brazilian tourists.

5. NORTH POLE, OKLAHOMA

An evelope that reads 'North Pole' sticks out from a red mailbox.
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Of all the places to name after the North Pole, you wouldn’t necessarily pick a tiny town in southeastern Oklahoma. Residents of the rural region aren’t sure how an Oklahoma town got an Arctic name. According to NewsOK, the late owner of the local North Pole Grocery thought it might have to do with the area being colder than other parts of the county, while other residents speculate that it could have been named for its out-of-the-way location, which might seem as far away as the North Pole for travelers.

6. SINT-NIKLAAS, BELGIUM

The town hall of Sint-Niklaas, Belgium seen from afar
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The East Flanders city of Sint-Niklaas gets its name from the church founded there in the early 13th century, not the jolly bearer of Christmas presents, but the town definitely knows how to appreciate Santa Claus—or rather, his predecessor, Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas). There’s a statue of the holiday figure posted outside the city hall year-round, and between November 12 and December 6 (Saint Nicholas’s Day), the city’s fine arts museum turns into the Huis van de Sint, or the “House of the Saint,” where kids can tour Sinterklaas’s house and meet the big guy himself. Sinterklaas comes to visit the children of Sint-Niklaas on the weekend prior to December 6, and local elementary schools get a three-day weekend so that kids can play with their new toys afterward.

7. NOEL, MISSOURI

A vintage postcard shows a highway leading into the town of Noel, Missouri.
OZARK POSTCARD PUBLISHERS, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The town of Noel wasn’t named after Christmas—the designation originally referred to local sawmill owners C.W. and W.J. Noel—but it has certainly embraced the association. In the 1930s, Noel’s post office began offering a Christmas postmark service, stamping cards and letters sent through the town with a Christmas-themed postmark that says “The Christmas City in the Ozark Vacation Land.” Each year, the post office receives around 50,000 pieces of mail from people all around the world asking for these stamps, and the local postmaster has to employ a team of volunteers to process them all in time for the holiday.

8. BETHLEHEM, PENNSYLVANIA

A sign reads 'Christmas City Village Weihnachtsmarkt.'

This Pennsylvania town owes the origin of its name to Christmas Eve. In 1741, a group of Moravians—a Protestant denomination founded in the 1400s—settled near the banks of Pennsylvania’s Lehigh River. These settlers had a patron, the German count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf, and when he visited on Christmas Eve, 1741, he proclaimed that the town would be named Bethlehem. In 1937, Bethlehem’s chamber of commerce decided to make the most of the name, declaring it America’s Christmas City. It’s now known for its extensive annual Christmas market.

9. BETHLEHEM, WALES

A sign welcomes visitors to Bethlehem, Wales in both English and Welsh.

JOHN FINCH, Geograph // CC BY-SA 2.0

Pennsylvania isn’t the only place to lay claim to the Bethlehem name. Its Welsh compatriot, though, owes even more to the Christmas spirit. Bethlehem, Wales is a tiny village that boasted just 150 people in 2012. It’s so small, in fact, that in the 1980s, its only post office got shut down by budget cuts. But the high demand for the Bethlehem postmark forced it to reopen in 2002. Though it’s typically only open a few hours a week, in order to cope with the high volume of mail people send in during the Christmas season the post office has longer hours during the holidays.

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Forget Horns: Some Trains in Japan Bark Like Dogs to Scare Away Deer
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In Japan, growing deer populations are causing friction on the railways. The number of deer hit by trains each year is increasing, so the Railway Technical Research Institute has come up with a novel idea for curbing the problem, according to the BBC. Researchers there are using the sound of barking dogs to scare deer away from danger zones when trains are approaching, preventing train damage, delays, and of course, deer carnage.

It’s not your standard horn. In pilot tests, Japanese researchers have attached speakers that blare out a combination of sounds designed specifically to ward off deer. First, the recording captures the animals’ attention by playing a snorting sound that deer use as an “alarm call” to warn others of danger. Then, the sound of howling dogs drives the deer away from the tracks so the train can pass.

Before this initiative, the problem of deer congregating on train tracks seemed intractable. Despite the best efforts of railways, the animals aren’t deterred by ropes, barriers, flashing lights, or even lion feces meant to repel them. Kintetsu Railway has had some success with ultrasonic waves along its Osaka line, but many rail companies are still struggling to deal with the issue. Deer flock to railroad tracks for the iron filings that pile up on the rails, using the iron as a dietary supplement. (They have also been known to lick chain link fences.)

The new deer-deterring soundtrack is particularly useful because it's relatively low-tech and would be cheap to implement. Unlike the ultrasonic plan, it doesn’t have to be set up in a particular place or require a lot of new equipment. Played through a speaker on the train, it goes wherever the train goes, and can be deployed whenever necessary. One speaker on each train could do the job for a whole railway line.

The researchers found that the recordings they designed could reduce the number of deer sightings near the train tracks by as much as 45 percent during winter nights, which typically see the highest collision rates. According to the BBC, the noises will only be used in unpopulated areas, reducing the possibility that people living near the train tracks will have to endure the sounds of dogs howling every night for the rest of their lives.

Deer aren't the only animal that Japanese railways have sought to protect against the dangers of railroad tracks. In 2015, the Suma Aqualife Park and the West Japan Railway Company teamed up to create tunnels that could serve as safer rail crossings for the turtles that kept getting hit by trains.

[h/t BBC]

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29 of the Best Small Cities in America, According to National Geographic
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina
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When it comes to cities, bigger isn’t always better. Some of the most appealing destinations in America have more residents than your average town but not enough to make them bustling metropolises. If you’re looking to add more small cities your travel bucket list, National Geographic has some suggestions.

For their list below, Nat Geo Travel partnered with global destination branding advisor Resonance Consultancy to rank the best small cities in the country. They dropped the criteria used by most travel lists and adopted metrics that were a little less conventional. In the list below, you’ll find places that excel in categories like greenest (plenty of parks), sudsiest (lots of breweries), most Instagrammed (popular hashtags), musically grooviest (lots of live music), and most hipster friendly (coffee shops and record stores galore) per capita.

Each city falls into one of three population brackets: 40,000 to 100,000 people, 100,000 to 200,000, and 200,000 to 600,000. Anchorage, Alaska was the most caffeinated for its size, with 5.98 coffee shops for every 10,000 residents. Reno, Nevada is among the meatiest cities, meaning there are plenty of delis, butchers, and steakhouses there for carnivores to enjoy. Hagerstown, Maryland—which has no shortage of barber shops and hair salons—is one of the best groomed cities.

If you’re looking for a destination that checks off multiple boxes, Boulder, Colorado is the place to be: Not only is it the most hipster friendly city in its population group, it’s the most caffeinated, sudsiest, and musically grooviest as well.

Check out the full list below before planning your next vacation.

Albuquerque, New Mexico (Sudsiest)
Anchorage, Alaska (Trending- Most Caffeinated)
Ann Arbor, Michigan (Greenest)
Annapolis, Maryland (Dog Friendly)
Asheville, North Carolina (Most Artsy, Sudsiest)
Baton Rouge, Louisiana (Best Groomed)
Boulder, Colorado (Hipster Friendly, Musically Grooviest, Most Caffeinated, Sudsiest)
Charleston, South Carolina (Most Instagrammed, Most Artsy)
Columbia, South Carolina (Best Groomed, Meatiest)
Greenville, South Carolina (Meatiest)
Hagerstown, Maryland (Best Groomed)
Healdsburg, California (Greenest)
Hickory, North Carolina (Hipster Friendly)
Honolulu, Hawaii (Musically Grooviest, Most Instagrammed, Most Artsy)
Kansas City, Missouri (Most Artsy)
Lakeland, Florida (Most Dog Friendly)
Louisville, Kentucky (Meatiest)
Madison, Wisconsin (Greenest)
New Orleans, Louisiana (Hipster Friendly)
Newport, Rhode Island (Best Groomed)
Olympia, Washington (Most Caffeinated, Greenest)
Omaha, Nebraska (Musically Grooviest)
Pensacola, Florida (Most Dog Friendly)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Sudsiest)
Portland, Maine (Most Instagrammed)
Rapid City, South Dakota (Most Instagrammed)
Reno, Nevada (Meatiest, Most Dog Friendly)
Santa Cruz, California (Musically Grooviest)
Spokane, Washington (Hipster Friendly, Most Caffeinated)

[h/t National Geographic]

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