Tucked away behind the Santa Claus Fire Station in Indiana lies Santa Claus Haus, the home to old Jolly Saint Nick himself.
Santa Claus Haus, located at 200 Patricia Koch Drive inside the Santa Claus Community Center, opened in August.
The 501(c)(3) nonprofit facility provides a space where children and their families can come year-round to celebrate Christmas and see Santa — keeping the holiday spirit alive throughout every season at “America’s Christmas Hometown.”
For character sake, “Santa” is only known by that name.
“I’ve developed a passion for this community and the people in it and the people that have been coming to see me for so many years,” Santa said.
Santa’s home consists of a hybrid experience of a living space feel, filled with photographs and decorations, while also serving as a gift and souvenir shop filled with candles, toys, and ornaments made by local artisans and craftsmen.
But the biggest draw is Santa’s throne, which sits in front of a decorated backdrop, ready to accommodate families of all sizes and to be able to take pictures to commemorate their visits, coupled with a countdown clock till Christmas, and a nice list for kids to sign before they leave.
And Santa means it when he says children of all ages — having 2-day-old infants to 99-year-olds coming in for their picture and to create memories.
Families travel from up the street, to states as far as Texas and Washington, while others make their way from Canada to countries overseas such as Dubai and Germany — specifically to come see Santa and check out the town.
“It’s another blessing. It really is,” Santa said. “A few years ago I had some people from Jerusalem … and that’s not a big Christian community, but they came to Santa Claus, Indiana to see Santa.”
And Santa makes sure to create an experience for the families beyond getting a photograph.
Families can make an appointment on Santa Claus Haus’ website and can give Santa information and talking points about their children, which Santa uses to hold conversations with them that can sometimes last up to ten minutes or more.
Santa also has a fully equipped and operational sleigh “Silent Knight,” acquired and serviced by Jaw’s Collision Center & Auto Service, which he can be seen cruising along the streets throughout the year heading to appearances or his own personal joyrides.
Santa got his start of giving to children after he personally experienced tragedy.
“This began in 348 A.D. I had some very wealthy parents and they had passed away,” Santa said. “They left me a lot of money and I was being raised in a church by my uncle. …But I had this money and had no use for it and I started trying to give to other children and people.
…I felt not only giving that but … you have to give up yourself too and it just made me feel so good and I had to keep doing it.”
Though Santa loves the job, he does admit that it sometimes has its challenges.
“Some of the pressures are that … there’s a large portion of the society that doesn’t want to talk about the real reason why we celebrate Christmas,” Santa said. “And I am very adamant about being able to say that — we celebrate the birth of Christ, and that’s what Christmas is about.”
Due to the pandemic, Santa admitted that it was difficult for everyone but had been keen on trying to shed some positivity.
“When I talk to them, I try to let them know that this is just a temporary thing,” Santa said. “Santa was pretty much shut down around the country last year and I did get to visit some. Sometimes it was heartbreaking because parents couldn’t put the children on Santa’s lap, the children couldn’t come up and hug Santa, and there were a lot of tears on both sides of the glass, because it was heartbreaking for Santa as well to not be able to do what he normally does. I live off the hugs, I love the hugs.”
Contrary to popular belief, Santa and company got their start in the Midwest.
“The elves and I have been here since the 1700s and we liked it because it was a non-populated community,” Santa said. “We liked … being able to not be seen, and it was a good thing for us.”
Eventually, people caught wind of the town and started visiting and moving in, but Santa and his elves made sure not to draw attention and still focused on their work.
“We would do our toy building and we would have to get wood and stuff to keep our cabins and cottages warm,” Santa said.
However, with the arrival of new residents, Santa said that the townspeople had a request to have a post office built under the name “Santa Fee” — which was eventually denied by the United States postmaster general.
With the town trying to figure out another name, Santa was gathering wood on his sleigh with the reindeer around Christmas time when he passed by the church and saw sleighs and wagons out front, which he found usual.
Santa eventually found out that the people were throwing a potluck while still brainstorming what to call the town.
“We were driving by the front of the church, we’re trying to be quiet,” Santa said. “And this big snow squall comes up, blows the doors of the church open, the bells on the sleigh start ringing and the children turn around and say ‘Santa Claus!’ It’s been Santa Claus, Indiana ever since.”
If interested in scheduling a visit to see Santa or looking to donate to the Santa Claus Haus, visit santaclaushaus.org.