This Adorably Festive Town in Indiana Is Where All Your Letters to Santa Go
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According to folklore, in 1856, with the Christmas season quickly approaching, a small community of people in southern Indiana applied for a post office to be built under the name Santa Fe. To the townspeople’s surprise, the application was returned stating that the name Santa Fe, Indiana was already taken. Weeks later on a cold December night in a small church, they debated alternative names for the town. A gust of wind abruptly swung the door open and bells could be heard ringing in the distance. Inside a child excitedly shouted, “It’s Santa Claus!”
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The post office eventually opened, and today it receives thousands of handwritten letters to Santa each December. A group of dedicated volunteers, cleverly known as Santa’s Elves, respond to them.
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The town’s claim to fame is Holiday World, a theme park open from April to October with more than 1 million annual visitors. But during the first three weekends of December, the city of 2,500 residents hosts an array of events to help both tourists and locals get into the holiday spirit. I spent a weekend exploring the town and taking advantage of as many events as I could pack into my schedule. I had dinner with Santa, sorted wish lists from children around the world, watched the parade, saw a choir performance and a Scrooge’s Christmas play, and spent time with locals who seem to never get sick of hearing Christmas music.
Sign welcomes visitors to Santa Claus, Indiana.
Ed Rinehart, a volunteer elf, delivers letters from the Santa Claus Museum to the post office six days a week.
Jim Yellig went on to become the official Santa of Santa Claus. His daughter, Pat Koch, continues the tradition through a non-profit organization called Santa's Elves Inc. answering over 20,000 letters each year and spending $10,000 in stamps.
During the Christmas season over 20,000 letters are answered by Santa's elves and returned to children all over the world.
Postal worker Marian Balbach stamps letters with the official Santa Claus postmark.
From Santa's Elves
Thanks to the volunteers, your letters to Santa won't go unanswered.
The Santa Claus Post Office is ready for all your wish lists.
Santa's Candy Castle opened in 1935. On top of multiple rooms filled with sweets, the shop hosts multiple chestnut roasting opportunities each weekend of December.
The Das Nikolausfest at Saint Nicholas Catholic Church hosted a bakesale along with German food and a visit from Saint Nicholas himself.
Pumpkin Pie at the annual Dinner with Santa at Santa's Lodge.
A Christmas Play
Scrooge's Christmas staff before taking the stage in the production presented by The Lincoln Boyhood Drama Association.
A Santa sculpture acts as a monument to children around the world at the entrance to the town hall of Santa Claus, Indiana
Deck the Floats
A float is prepared for the annual Santa Claus Christmas Parade.
Two parade marchers in elf attire gather in the Holiday World parking lot prior to the annual Santa Claus Christmas Parade.
Donkeys line up for the Santa Claus Christmas Parade with white fur cuffs and painted red glitter hooves.
The Heritage Hills High School Marching Band marching through town during the Santa Claus Christmas Parade.
The world's largest postcard made by the Santa Claus Museum will be mailed to Ripley's Believe It or Not! after the Santa Claus Christmas Parade.
Parade floats line up in the Holiday World parking lot before the annual Santa Claus Christmas Parade.
Santa himself eating cookies before getting on his sled in the Santa Claus Christmas parade.
Friends and Family of the Barnett family stage a live Nativity during the Christmas Lake Village neighborhood festival of lights celebration.
Lake Rudolph Campground and R.V. Park hosts a Land of Lights driving experience through the park.