From Santa Claus, AZ to Mistletoe, KY: 20 Towns With Festive Names
There are a select few towns scattered across America for which the season never really ends thanks to names that capture the holiday spirit. Best of all, most host festivities both year-round and concentrated around the month of December. Looking for spots around the U.S. bursting with holiday spirit? Pay these towns a visit before the holiday season slips away.
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. The post office is now the only one bearing the name Santa Claus and receives thousands of letters to Santa each year. The town also boasts streets named for the Christmas season, a 40-ton Santa statue, and themed attractions open year-round including Frosty's Fun Center, Santa's Stables, and Santa's Candy Castle.
This Santa Claus is too small for a post office with only 165 residents, but it still has Candy Cane Street and December Drive to fit the seasonal theme. The small area is dotted with themed business like Santa's Garden and decorated with garlands and other holiday iconography year-round.
Though a ghost town today, tourists driving between Phoenix and Las Vegas can glimpse the festive buildings of the town that was Santa Claus. California realtor Nina Talbot founded the town in 1937, which attracted attention for its holiday-themed businesses like the Santa Claus Inn and a children's train called Old 1225. Its popularity soon declined and the last operating business closed in 1995.
This unincorporated community in northern Idaho took its name from the nearby Santa Anna Creek. In 2005, however, the town changed its name to SecretSanta.com and erected signs promoting the gift exchange site. In return, the town received $20,000 or more from the website. Only the post office -- one that fields numerous letters to Santa each year -- was allowed to keep its original name, and the rest of the town reverted to its original title after one year.
Hallelujah Junction is an unincorporated community straddling the high-elevation border between northern California and Nevada. More a truck stop than a town, it's known almost solely for its memorably festive name. Composer John Adams owns a cabin near Hallelujah Junction and named a short composition after the community.
In 1938, Julius Thurson started a holiday-themed toy factory he called "Christmas" along the shores of Lake Superior. The factory was destroyed by a fire only two years later, but the town of same name he developed around it remains. With a current population of 400, Christmas is now known as a popular resort area for snowmobilers or cross-country skiers.
Every December, thousands flock to the festively-decorated post office so their holiday mail can be emblazoned with the town's special Christmas postmark. The unincorporated area east of Orlando takes its name from Fort Christmas, which was established near Christmas Creek during the second Seminole War. Today it 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.
Christmas Valley in central Oregon was named after nearby Christmas Lake, which was in turn named after pioneer Peter Christman. The non-festive origin of the town name didn't stop developer M. Penn Phillips from giving the streets names like Comet Lane and Snowman Road in the 1960s. The tiny unincorporated town serves about 400 Christmas cookies for their annual parade and caroling event—more cookies than the town has residents.
Christmas Cove is both a body of water and a fishing village within the town of South Bristol populated by only 850 year-round residents. It was supposedly named by Captain John Smith when he anchored in the protected harbor on Christmas day during his 1614 voyage. Despite its festive name, the town is actually a yachting destination and thus welcomes far more visitors in summer.
Bethlehem was founded in 1741 on Christmas Eve and later nicknamed "Christmas City, USA" in 1937, the same year the town first erected their Christmas star atop nearby South Mountain. The eight-pronged star is now 91 feet high and remains lit every day of the year. In December, the rest of Bethlehem is lit up with 5,500 strands, or two miles' worth, of Christmas lights.
Like Bethlehem and several other nearby owns—Emmaus, Egypt, Jordan Creek—Nazareth was named for a Biblical town. The borough in Northampton County was founded in 1740 by German missionaries, and the Moravian Historical Society pays tribute to its heritage with their Christmas in Nazareth event, featuring an artisans' village, museum visits, and a local ice-carver.
The locals of this Bethlehem celebrate the anniversary of the nativity by recreating it at their Christmas in Bethlehem Drive-Thru. Each year thousands of guests drive or walk through the town to see interactive nativity scenes organized by the townspeople, featuring a cast of roughly 100 biblical characters.
A village of 400 residents processes more than 12,800 cards each December sent by people around the world who want 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 due to budget cuts one year in 2013.
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. Still, the town embraced the reindeer version, putting images of the famous reindeer on all of its street signs. Thousands of holiday cards are sent to the Rudolph post office to receive a special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer postmark.
There's little snow to be seen no matter the time of year in Snowflake, which was actually named for its Mormon founders Erastus Snow and William Jordan Flake. The town holds an annual Christmas festival with many free events, including nativity displays, a tree lighting, theater productions, and a parade.
In 1952, the Dahl and Gaske Development Company purchased a settlement outside Fairbanks and named it after the mythical home of St. Nick in hopes of attracting toy manufacturers. That scheme failed, but the town still embraces its kitschy name with candy cane-striped light poles and Christmas decorations that stay up year-round.
Located at the base of the Adirondack Mountains in New York, this hamlet 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) that hosts discounted family weekends in December.
Though the town has no clear relation to the decorative holiday wreath, Garland has no shortage of annual Christmas time 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. There are free screenings of classic Christmas films as well as seasonal productions put on by local theater groups, too.
Mistletoe is an unincorporated town that grew from a stop on the Kentucky Union Railway. Mistletoe was named by the railroad for a pervasive native plant -- the same vibrant mistletoe used as a holiday decoration encouraging couples to kiss.
Noel was a town named for prominent early citizens C.W. and W.J. Noel, but soon capitalized on the seasonal implication of its name. The Noel Post Office similarly receives tens of thousands of Christmas cards each December that are then postmarked with a town stamp that includes the slogan The Christmas City in the Ozark Vacation Land.