Sarah Afshar via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Sarah Afshar via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

7 Places That Celebrate Christmas Year-Round

Sarah Afshar via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Sarah Afshar via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

For some people, the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day are more than enough time to celebrate the holidays. But the people living near these locations may feel differently. From Alaska to Tennessee, here are seven towns where Yule is a 365-day affair.

1. NORTH POLE, ALASKA

Jimmy Emerson, DVM via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 
You wouldn’t be faulted for mistaking this 2200-person town for Santa’s home-base. While it’s closer to Fairbanks, Alaska than the true North Pole, it does feature several festive landmarks such as Santa Claus Lane, Kris Kringle Drive, and an expansive Santa Claus house that’s open year-round. In 2015 residents even elected a local man named Santa Claus to preside over the town as mayor. Settled in 1944, North Pole has a development company to thank for its quirky address. The hope was that a toy company would be enticed to move there so they could market their toys as being “made in the North Pole.” That never came to fruition, but the town has embraced their jolly title nonetheless. Things get especially exciting around December, when they celebrate with an ice sculpture contest and an annual winter festival. It’s also the time of year when the town receives hundreds of thousands of letters addressed to “Santa Claus, North Pole, Alaska.” A team of volunteers works each season to ensure every letter is answered.

2. MIDLAND, MICHIGAN

Al Bello/Getty

 
There’s no need to journey north of the Arctic Circle to learn what it takes to be Kris Kringle. The most prestigious Santa Claus academy on earth can be found in Midland, Michigan. Since 1934, the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School has been attracting rotund, rosy-cheeked gentlemen to the Midwestern town. It’s there that they’re taught reindeer handling 101, how to dress like St. Nick, and the history of the legendary character. Once the holiday season rolls around, the newly trained Santas disperse to malls across the country—or if they decide to stick around, they can march in Midland’s annual Santa Parade.

3. PARADISE, PENNSYLVANIA

 
Located off U.S. Route 30, Paradise is home to one of those charming roadside museums that can be found in so many small towns across America. What sets this attraction apart is its yearlong commitment to celebrating a single day in December. The National Christmas Center comprises 20,000 square feet of exhibits tracing centuries of holiday history—visitors can peek inside a recreation of an F. W. Woolworth's 5 & 10 Cent Store, browse through over 500 depictions of Santa Claus, and learn about Christmas traditions around the world. On their way out, guests can do some early holiday shopping at the museum’s gift shop no matter what month it is.

4. FRANKENMUTH, MICHIGAN

Ken Lund via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

 
The streets of Frankenmuth feel like they belong on the pages of a storybook. Dubbed “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” the town is home to covered bridges, charming old-world architecture, and horse-drawn carriages reminiscent of another era. But the town’s main attraction is what's said to be the world’s largest Christmas store, Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. The 320,000-square-foot space contains 350 decorated trees, 150 styles of nutcrackers, and gifts imported from 70 countries around the world. A hundred thousand Christmas lights brighten the store’s exterior throughout the seasons (their electric bill averages $1250 a day).

5. SANTA CLAUS, INDIANA

 
The residents of Santa Claus, Indiana didn’t have visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads when they came up with the town’s merry moniker—they were just suffering from a lack of inspiration. In 1856, back when the town went by Santa Fe, they learned that a town of that name already existed in Indiana. Wanting to at least keep the first half of their address, they reportedly chose the name Santa Claus simply because they failed to come up with something more creative. More than 150 years later, Santa Claus, Indiana is the state’s number one destination for year-round holiday festivities. Visitors can check out the town’s Holiday World (which pays homage to Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Independence Day as well as Christmas), pick out sweet treats from Santa’s Candy Castle, or head over to Santa’s Lodge motel and bask in the glory of the two 12-foot fiberglass St. Nicks on display outside. Kids looking to reach the community’s famous post office can mail their holiday wish lists to 45 North Kringle Place, Santa Claus, IN 47579.

6. BETHLEHEM, PENNSYLVANIA

Lehigh Valley, PA via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

 
Finding Bethlehem, Pennsylvania isn’t difficult for those nearby—just follow the electric star that looks down on the town from its perch on South Mountain. The festive landmark was first erected in 1937 in an effort to attract tourists to the town in the midst of the Great Depression. That same year, Bethlehem was officially named “Christmas City, U.S.A.” by the Chamber of Commerce—a fitting title for a town that was founded on Christmas Eve in 1741. Originally made from incandescent bulbs strung on plywood, the star of Bethlehem currently consists of steel and LED lights that glow every night of the year.

7. PIGEON FORGE, TENNESSEE

Janet Donaldson via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

 
Looking for a blinged-out nutcracker in the middle of July? The Incredible Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee has you covered. The self-proclaimed largest Christmas shopping village in the South is home to wreaths, lights, ornaments, and any other holiday-themed decor you may need whatever time of year you need it. In 2007, the store opened a festive hotel across the street where customers could continue keeping with the holiday spirit even after they’d finished shopping. The Inn at Christmas Place features performances by a singing Santa twice a week, present-wrapping workshops, and plenty of holly jolly embellishments. Things get even more intense around the actual holidays, with 30 or more trees displaying nearly half a million lights on the hotel grounds.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Want to Recycle Your Christmas Tree? Feed It to an Elephant
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

When the holiday season finally comes to a close, people get creative with the surplus of dead Christmas trees. One San Francisco-based artist transformed brittle shrubs into hanging installation pieces. Others use pine needles for mulch, or repurpose trees into bird sanctuaries. For the average person, sticking it into a wood chipper or "treecycling" it as part of a community program are all eco-friendly ways to say goodbye to this year's Douglas fir. None of these solutions, however, are as cute as the waste-cutting strategy employed by some zoos around the world: giving them to elephants.

Each year, zookeepers at Tierpark Berlin—a facility that bills itself as “Europe’s largest adventure animal park”—feed the elephants unsold pine trees. The plants are reportedly pesticide-free, and they serve as a good (albeit prickly) supplement to the pachyderms' usual winter diets.

A bit closer to home, the residents of The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee rely on local residents to take part in their annual Christmas Tree Drive. In addition to being nutrient-rich, the tree's needles are said to help aid in an elephant's digestion. But beyond all that, it's pretty adorable to watch.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
5 Eco-Friendly Ways to Dispose of Your Christmas Tree
iStock
iStock

What’s the environmentally safest way to dispose of your Christmas tree? It’s hard to say. Grown, managed, transported, and recycled efficiently, a real Christmas tree’s environmental impact should be near neutral. Unfortunately, not all Christmas tree plantations are equal in their environmental impact.

The most eco-friendly way is to leave the tree in the ground, where it belongs, so you never have to dispose of it. But then you don't have a Christmas tree in your house to bring festive cheer. One thing you can do is be environmentally smart when it comes to the tree's disposal. After this festive season, why not try one of these eco-friendly methods.

1. CHIP IT.

If you’re lucky enough to have access to a big wood-chipper, you may be able to chip the entire tree. Wood-chip is great as a decorative landscaping material. But if you really want to do great things for the environment (and if you have access to a lot of Christmas trees), you could make a bioreactor to denitrify water. Nitrates are put on farms across the world to help increase crop output, but a considerable amount is washed away into lakes and rivers where it’s disastrous for fish and potentially toxic for people. A wood chip bioreactor encourages the growth of bacteria that break down the nitrates in the drainage water, reducing the amount that gets into the water supply. It's not a simple project, however. To make one, you have to dig a big trench, get the water to flow through said trench, and fill it with wood chips. More info can be found here [PDF].

2. CRAFT IT.


iStock

If your tree hasn’t yet let go of its needles—and you haven’t yet let go of Christmas, get crafty with it. Cut off small branches and bind them around a circle of wire to make an attractive wreath. This looks even better if some of the cones are still attached. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you could set up an essential oil extractor to get a supercharged Christmas scent. If you are already distilling alcohol, you have everything you need (here's how to do it). With a little less effort and equipment, you can make a weaker liquid called hydrosol, which is a fragrant condensate water containing water-soluble parts of the needles.

3. STICK IT.

Many legumes, such as garden peas, are thigmotropic, meaning that they respond to objects they touch, growing in coils along or up them. Needle-free Christmas tree branches have lots of twigs, texture, and knobby protrusions for peas and beans to get a grip on. This allows them to grow upwards strongly toward light. Simply stick a small tree branch in the soil next to each new shoot for a free, effective legume-climbing frame. Another advantage of this technique is that it makes grazing animals less likely to munch those tender green shoots, as they tend to avoid getting Christmas tree twigs spiked up their noses.

4. TREECYCLE IT.


Getty Images

Come January, it’s cold, the festivities are over, work looms, and you’ve got too much on your mind to be thinking about dead Christmas tree horticulture or crafts. Fortunately, a simple solution is at hand: Most counties and municipalities now provide Christmas tree recycling points where you can take your tree for chipping. Some “TreeCycle” points will even exchange your tree for a bag of wood-chip or chip mulch. OK, this probably means that you’ll have to jam that Christmas tree into your car once more, but as long as you don’t have to drive too many miles out of your way, Christmas tree recycling is a quick and easy environmentally-friendly option.

5. DONATE IT.

After you’ve had your Christmas cheer, why shouldn’t fish have some fun? Several communities have programs in place where they’ll take your old Christmas tree, drill a hole in the base, tie a brick to it, and throw it in a lake. When humans create artificial lakes, they tend to be relatively featureless on the bottom for easy dredging. That’s great for us, but it means baby fish have nowhere to escape predators. Christmas trees provide a nice, temporary place for the fish to hide out and explore.

If, on the other hand, you’d like to see your Christmas tree mauled by a pride of lions, that’s OK too! Some zoos around the world take Christmas tree donations (but please remove all the tinsel first) and allow the animals to play with them.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios