Within five years, many scientists speculate all summer Arctic sea ice will disappear, clearing the Northwest passage, stranding the polar bears and providing ample surfacing room for Russian-flag-toting nuclear submarines.
Needless to say, Santa Claus will be forced to find alternative summer residency, joining Venetians, singed Californians and New Orleaners as the new generation of climate change refugees.
Just as we allow ourselves to question the contemporary wisdom of building a coastal metropolis below sea level, we must also question the acumen of Santa’s choice of an isolated section of frozen sea ice on which to locate a sprawling workshop complex.
St. Nicholas originally had his humble origins as a fourth-century Christian bishop in the Lycia region of what is now modern-day Turkey.
The real question, is how did a fourth-century Mediterranean bishop decide to relocate to the geographic North pole and pursue history’s most bizarre philanthropic venture?
Nicholas’ peculiar top-of-the-world home, for one, originated with none other than an Alaskan gold miner, a food shortage and an unorthodox US government hunger-relief program.
In the early 20th century, concern began to grow about starving Inuit populations within the United States’ Alaskan territory. Somewhere in the desolate territory, a civil servant surmised that if they could only get their hands on some reindeer — lots of reindeer — then the Inuit could be saved.
Nome, Alaska, gold miner Carl Lomen instantly rose to the task, throwing down his pan and founding the Lomen Reindeer Corp.
Lomen Company representatives sailed to northern Norway and invited a group of Sami people to move to Alaska and teach the Inuit how to herd reindeer.
As the Sami, along with their herd of 500 reindeer, slogged their way through the Canadian North towards Alaska, a Lomen employee was taken by the festive tableaux of the scene.
He decided to dress up as Santa, photograph himself being pulled by the reindeer in a sleigh, and use the image in an upcoming Lomen Company ad campaign.
The ads were a hit, and the image of Nicholas as a fur-clad, reindeer-riding, polar resident was soon seared into the minds of the American public.
Being so closely associated with a winter holiday, it made natural sense that Nicholas should live in a land of perpetual snow.
Across the pond, the European equivalent of Santa Claus, Father Christmas, doesn’t dwell on contested northern sea ice at all. Rather, he takes his residence in the Finnish province of Lapland, a region well known for its vast spaces — as well as its reindeer.
Lapland certainly lacks the wonder and mystery of the North Pole, but at least Father Christmas’ citizenship isn’t an international sore point — or a campaign promise.
Being propelled by large animals and growing a long white beard are typical traits of any northern resident — be they from Finland or “disputed boundary.” But the real intrigue is the marked lifestyle changes that have struck the saint over his long career, turning him into almost a multicentennial Bob Dylan.
The young bishop quickly gained a reputation for generosity. One famous story sees a local man strapped for cash, forcing him to take the then-logical next step of selling his daughters as prostitutes. However, Nicholas heard of the family’s plight and, chucking three bags of gold coins through their window, he prevented the daughters’ sorry fate.
Nicholas is most well-known as the patron saint of children — a worthy explanation for his yearly obsession with clandestinely showering millions of them with gifts, a notable saintly feat. However, it’s been a few centuries since Nicholas last dabbled with his more-awesome powers of mortal resurrection.
Nicholas once came upon a butcher who had recently murdered and chopped up three boys with the intention of turning them into ham. Leaning next to the barrel of boy-parts, Nicholas prayed until the parts miraculously reattached and came back to life. The Frankenstein-esque feat easily earned Nicholas a beatification.
The jolly elf also moonlights as the patron saint of murderers and pirates — not because he fills their stockings on Christmas Eve, but because he helps them “repent and change their ways.”
Nicholas also holds the lesser-known saintly patronage of brewers, wine vendors and armed forces police.
Nick is also the patron saint of Amsterdam — a city that, dikes withstanding, may ironically share the same watery future as the North Pole.
Somewhere through the centuries, St. Nicholas also broke away from his original bag-of-coins-through-the-window gift-giving technique, and took to logistically complex seasonal gift-giving journeys.
In 1823, Clement Clarke Moore, a Greek Literature professor whose previous works included the two-volume Hebrew and English Lexicon, published A Visit From St. Nicholas, immortalizing the saint’s eight-reindeer team, his furry attire and his chimney-centric entrances and exits.
In only the past 50 years, Nicholas’ vow of chastity to the church was forgotten when he took on Mrs. Claus as a bride. His reputation for generosity morphed into a global gift-giving crusade, and a humble workshop gradually transformed into a sprawling elf-filled complex.
Regardless of whether or not Santa’s polar abode is the brainchild of an Alaskan reindeer importer is ultimately irrelevant. Given his other wacky pursuits, it makes perfect sense that Nicholas’ domicile should also be a bit out of the ordinary.
The ravages of climate change may well take their most storied victim, but in the words of another famous obese man, “I don’t worry, because I’m sittin’ on top of the world.”
Contact Tristin Hopper at