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At North Pole, Alaska
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North Pole, Alaska, is actually 1,700 miles (2,820 kilometers) south of its namesake.

Ever Wonder Where That Letter to Santa Wound Up?

By Glenn Hodges Photographs by Maria Stenzel

Does this suburban town live up to its name? If you run into Kris Kringel at the North Pole Plaza Mall, ask him.

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There’s something here that people love beyond the Christmas gimmick. Charlie Livingston, like many in the area, came to Alaska with the military and never left. If he has his way, he never will. When I meet him at his taxidermy shop in a strip mall on the outskirts of town, he’s frantically spraying pine scent to cover up the animal smells before “the lady,” photographer Maria Stenzel, arrives. But he forgets to take down the Playboy calendar, and posters on the walls say things like “Never let go of your life preserver” set over an M16. There’s no hiding who he is.

Charlie is a big guy, both in body and in spirit. When he gets together with his friends in the mornings at McDonald’s, he tells the tallest tales, laughs the loudest laughs, and takes the most abuse. His buddies use him to size people (“that guy’s at least as big as Charlie”), and they say to his face what a hack he is, how he couldn’t stuff a pair of mittens. But behind his back they’ll tell you, almost with tears in their eyes, how much they respect his work.

Hunting is a way of life here. When summer comes, and the three-hour 70-below-zero days of winter are but a distant memory, Alaskans come alive. The rivers beckon with salmon, the woods with moose and bear. And with their trophies in hand, men come to Charlie, because Charlie understands. “This land is in my soul,” he says. “That’s all there is to it.”

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Christmas and Santa Claus are serious business to the people of North Pole, Alaska.

Do you believe in Santa Claus? Tell us your stories on our forum board. Then nominate your favorite zip or postal code for coverage in NGM.

In More to Explore the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.

Our story’s Kris Kringel (spelled differently from the real Kriss Kringle) took a second job delivering pizzas while he was working as jolly ol’ Saint Nick over at the Santa Claus House. How did he explain why Santa Claus was coming to their house with their special order? Kringel told them he was checking up to see if they were being naughty or nice. Kringel says parents were happy when he delivered orders—and even began requesting him—because the children were better behaved!

Santa Claus House—Letters from Santa in North Pole, Alaska
Want to send a letter to Santa? This website tells you how and may even post it after it’s received. The site displays letters from children all over the world as well as providing details about the Santa Claus House.

The Official Web Site of the City of North Pole, Alaska
This is the official website of the city of North Pole, Alaska, where you can access a variety of information from a community calendar to North Pole facts.

Alaska Community Database
What’s the weather like in North Pole, Alaska? Find out on this site, sponsored by Alaska’s Department of Community and Economic Development, which provides fact-at-a-glance-style data.

The Aurora Page
Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the northern lights can be found here.


Rennick, Jeff. “The Search for Perfect Beauty,” National Geographic Traveler, May/June 2000, 88-96.

Brower, Kenneth. “An Alaskan Treasure,” National Geographic Traveler, May/June 1996, 80-93.

King, Larry L. “Hello Anchorage, Good-Bye Dream,” National Geographic, Mar. 1988, 364-389.

Jeffery, David. “Preserving America’s Last Great Wilderness,” National Geographic, June 1975, 769-791.

Judge, Joseph. “Alaska: Rising Northern Star,” National Geographic, June 1975, 730-767.

Keating, Bern. Alaska. National Geographic Books, 1971.


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