From Santa Claus to Mistletoe, 20 American Towns With Festive Names

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WHAT'S IN A NAME?

Nearly every town has its own way of celebrating the holidays, but there are a select few scattered across America for which the season never really ends. These are the towns that share their names with festive holiday icons like Santa Claus or Rudolph. Whether so named deliberately or just by happy coincidence, each modest hamlet embraces its oddball name with festivities both year-round and concentrated in the month of December. Mark these towns on the map and pay a visit before -- or even after -- the holiday season slips away.

Related: Embrace the Season: Holiday Attractions in All 50 States
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SANTA CLAUS, INDIANA

Christmas continues for 365 days a year in this southeast Indiana town, originally founded in 1854 as Santa Fe. The name was changed two years later to avoid confusion with another Indiana town of the same name when establishing a post office, which is now the only one in the world bearing the name Santa Claus. Each year it receives thousands of letters addressed to Santa, all of which are answered by a group of local volunteers dubbed "Santa's Elves." The town also boasts streets named for the Christmas season, a 40-ton Santa statue, and themed attractions such as Frosty's Fun Center, Santa's Stables, and Santa's Candy Castle.
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SANTA CLAUS, GEORGIA

This Santa Claus is tiny in both population and land area, home to fewer than 200 residents and occupying only two-tenths of a square mile. Street names like Candy Cane Road and December Drive fit the seasonal theme. The small area features a new, one-acre park dubbed Santa's Garden that is home to a non-denominational chapel. The street poles are painted like candy canes and the street signs all display holly.
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SANTA CLAUS, ARIZONA

Although the area is uninhabited today, tourists driving between Phoenix and Las Vegas can still glimpse a couple of roadside buildings in the town that once was Santa Claus. A California realtor founded the town in 1937 and so named it to attract buyers to this unremarkable swath of the Mojave Desert. The name soon drew tourists for its holiday-themed businesses, including the Santa Claus Inn and a children's train called Old 1225. The town's popularity soon declined and the last operating business closed in 1995. Today the remains of Santa Claus provide only an eerie seasonal destination for ghost town enthusiasts passing through.

Related: 10 Spooky Ghost Towns Across America
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SANTA, IDAHO

This unincorporated community in northern Idaho takes its original name from nearby Santa Anna Creek. In 2005, however, the local water and sewer district changed its name to SecretSanta.com and put up signs promoting the gift-exchange site. The authority received at least $20,000 for its efforts. The post office -- another one that fields numerous letters to Santa each year -- retained its official moniker, and the dot-com name disappeared after one year.
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HALLELUJAH JUNCTION, CALIFORNIA

Hallelujah Junction is an unincorporated community straddling the high-elevation border between northern California and Nevada. More truck stop than town, it's known almost solely for its memorably festive name, one likely given during the era of prospectors and Gold Rush speculators. Composer John Adams owns a cabin in the area and named a short composition for two pianos after the community.
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CHRISTMAS, MICHIGAN

In 1938, a Christmas-themed toy factory opened along the shores of Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The factory was destroyed by a fire only two years later, but the town of same name that grew around it remains. With a current population of about 400, Christmas is now known as a popular resort area, particularly for snowmobilers and cross-country skiers who enjoy the region's heavy snowfall each winter.
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CHRISTMAS, FLORIDA

Every December, thousands flock to the festively decorated post office in Christmas, Florida, so their holiday mail can be emblazoned with the town's special Christmas postmark. The unincorporated area east of Orlando takes its appellation from Fort Christmas, which was established on Dec. 25, 1837, during the Second Seminole War. Today a re-creation of the fort serves as a historical park and hosts a free "Cracker Christmas" celebration each year featuring pioneer demonstrations and a whole lot of home-cooked barbecue.
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CHRISTMAS VALLEY, OREGON

Christmas Valley in central Oregon takes its handle from nearby Christmas Lake, whose naming origin remains somewhat obscure. The arid climate didn't stop developer M. Penn Phillips from giving the streets fanciful holiday-themed monikers like Comet Lane and Snowman Road when he laid out the site in the 1960s. The tiny unincorporated community hands out Christmas cookies after its annual parade and caroling event.
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CHRISTMAS COVE, MAINE

Christmas Cove is both a natural harbor and a fishing and resort community within the town of South Bristol, itself populated by just 900 year-round residents. It was supposedly named by Captain John Smith when he anchored in the cove on Christmas Day during his 1614 voyage, but historical accounts cast doubt on that assertion. Despite its holiday name, the town is a yachting destination that welcomes far more visitors in summer, when the population generally doubles.
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NAZARETH, PENNSYLVANIA

Like Bethlehem and several other nearby towns -- Emmaus, Egypt, Jordan Creek -- Nazareth was named for a Biblical town where Jesus spent a chunk of his youth. The borough in Northampton County was founded in 1740 by Moravian settlers, and the local historical society pays tribute to its heritage with an annual one-day Christmas in Nazareth event, featuring an artisans' village, "pay as you wish" museum visits, and a local ice carver.

Related: 20 Festive Holiday Markets to Visit Across America
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BETHLEHEM, PENNSYLVANIA

Bethlehem was founded in 1741 on Christmas Eve by Moravian missionaries who named it after the birthplace of Jesus. It was nicknamed "Christmas City, USA" in 1937, the same year the town first erected a Christmas star atop nearby South Mountain. An important town symbol, the eight-pronged star now rises 91 feet high and remains lit between 4:30 p.m. and midnight throughout the year. In December, the rest of Bethlehem is lit up with 5,500 strands, or two miles' worth, of Christmas lights.
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BETHLEHEM, NORTH CAROLINA

Another town named for the birthplace of Jesus, this Bethlehem has celebrated the anniversary of the nativity by recreating it at a "Christmas in Bethlehem Drive-Thru." In years past, thousands of guests drove or walked through the town to see as many as 30 interactive nativity scenes organized by the townspeople, featuring a cast of about 100 biblical characters.
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JOY, ILLINOIS

The post office in this village with 400 residents processes more than 12,000 cards each December sent by people around the world who want their holiday mail marked with the town's latest custom-designed postmark stamp. The Joy postmark has been designed by students and residents every year since 1985, except when it was eliminated for the 2013 season due to budget cuts.
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RUDOLPH, WISCONSIN

The ubiquitous holiday tale of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer didn't exist until 1939, nearly a century after this Wisconsin village was named for young resident Rudolph Hecox. The town embraced its new seasonal association wholeheartedly, putting images of the famous deer on street signs. As with Christmas, Florida, thousands of holiday cards are sent to the Rudolph post office each December to receive a special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer postmark.
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SNOWFLAKE, ARIZONA

There's little snow to be seen no matter the time of year in Snowflake, Arizona, which was named for its Mormon founders Erastus Snow and William Jordan Flake. The town holds an annual 12 Days of Christmas festival with many free events, including nativity displays, a tree lighting, theater productions, and a parade during which townsfolk dish out cookies and hot cocoa.
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NORTH POLE, ALASKA

In 1952, the Dahl and Gaske Development Company purchased a fledgling settlement outside Fairbanks and named it after the mythical home of St. Nick in the hope of attracting toy manufacturers. That scheme failed, but the town embraces its kitschy name with candy-cane-striped street lights and Christmas colors adorning many buildings. The most famous attraction is the Santa Claus House trading post, which is marked by a 42-foot Santa statue on the roadside. The city also imports more than 2 million pounds of ice every December to create a wonderland of frozen sculptures.
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NORTH POLE, NEW YORK

There's another North Pole considerably farther south, at the base of the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. Like its Alaskan counterpart, this hamlet within the town of Wilmington is almost guaranteed to enjoy a white Christmas each year. Even when the snow isn't falling, however, tourists flock to Santa's Workshop, a holiday theme park established in 1949 (making it one of the nation's very first).
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GARLAND, TEXAS

Although the town has no clear relation to the decorative holiday wreath with which it shares a name, Garland, Texas, has no shortage of annual Christmastime traditions. The season begins with the tree-lighting ceremony Christmas on the Square, then continues with a procession of arts events going on throughout December, including free screenings of classic Christmas films and seasonal productions mounted by local theater groups.
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MISTLETOE, KENTUCKY

Mistletoe is an unincorporated community that grew from a stop on the Kentucky Union Railway. Unlike other cities on this list, Mistletoe was named by the railroad for a pervasive native plant -- the same vibrant mistletoe used as a holiday decoration encouraging couples to kiss.
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NOEL, MISSOURI

Like many other towns across America, Noel was named for prominent early citizens, in this case stockmen C.W. and W.J. Noel. The community soon learned to leverage the seasonal implication of its name. Here, too, the post office receives thousands of Christmas cards each December, which are postmarked with a town stamp affixed by volunteers and including the slogan "The Christmas City in the Ozark Vacation Land."