The Tiny Town of Santa Claus, Georgia is Filled With Lots of Christmas Cheer
When Sue Grisham says she loves Santa Claus, she means both the jolly old soul that hails from the North Pole and the town where she lives. Grisham, you see, comes from Santa Claus, Georgia, a tiny hamlet located just about halfway between Macon and Savannah, and pretty near the South’s onion capital, Vidalia.
The town was established in the 1930s, according to the Los Angeles Times. It started as a clever marketing ploy by a local farmer named C.G. Greene, who wanted to lure people off the highway to shop at his pecan stand. Greene was reportedly “a real jolly fellow with a red complexion and roly-poly figure who was always laughing and smiling” (sound familiar?) and had a real mind for business. To that end, he knew he needed to choose a name for the town that would make people laugh and then hopefully exit the highway to buy his farm goods. Naming the town Santa Claus did the job nicely.
Thomas F. Fuller, a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, helped get the new Toombs County town of Santa Claus incorporated in 1941. Greene served as the town's first mayor and streets got names like Noel Street, Reindeer Drive, and Candy Cane Lane. Then came along William Salem, a real estate developer from the nearby town of Lyons, who helped design the town and worked to bring in residents and, hopefully, tourists. There were high hopes that Santa Claus, which sat right on U.S. 1, would become a booming tourist attraction. Then the interstate came. Interstate 75 to the west and 95 to the east were far from Santa Claus and put a dent in the town’s plan to become an easy-access tourist attraction. The interstate didn’t put a dent in the residents’ spirit, though. “We just love Santa Claus,” Grisham told a local Fox News affiliate in 2018. “All the streets are named for Christmas. City Hall, the gift shop of course, and the community center are always decorated for Christmas.”
The Spirit of Christmas
While Santa Claus, Indiana, may be more famous, Santa Claus, Georgia, has plenty of holiday spirit. The town adopted the motto, “Santa Claus ... The City That Loves Children” and put it on a sign that welcomes people to town. These days, the sign provides the perfect opportunity for Christmas card photos or Instagram shots.
Deck the Halls
In Santa Claus, Black Friday is celebrated not with a doorbuster deal at the nearby Walmart, but by decking the halls of their merry little town. Homes are strung with Christmas lights, white pillars get wrapped with red ribbon to become candy canes, and nativity scenes pop up alongside the many varieties of Santa Claus that appear across the town. The lamp posts have bright green banners featuring pictures of St. Nick. There’s no need to decorate the Santa Claus City Hall, though, because according to Only in Your State, the decorations are up all year round at the building which sits at 25 December Drive.
The Chapel of Santa Claus, a 40-seat prayer chapel opened in 2014, is surrounded by Santa’s Gardens and a reindeer walking trail. Come Christmastime, it is decorated with green garlands, red bows, and holly, transforming the quaint little chapel into an idyllic photo opp.
Write A Letter To Santa Claus
While the U.S. Postal Service will happily put a North Pole postmark on a child’s letter to Santa—via the post office in North Pole, Alaska—if you want a postmark from Santa Claus, you’ll need to address the letter down South. Each year the town’s mailbox is flooded with Christmas cards waiting for that special Santa Claus postmark. The post office receives thousands of pieces of mail each holiday season, a Santa Claus spokeswoman told ABC News. People drive for miles to drop their Christmas cards in Santa Claus’s bright red mailbox, emblazoned with the word “Believe”. Each of those letters and cards gets affixed with the town’s Santa Claus postmark and is then sent along its way to make someone’s holiday a little more special.
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Santa Claus Lane
On Christmas Eve, the residents of Santa Claus line the streets with luminaries—paper bags with candles glowing inside—transforming Sleigh Street and Candy Cane Lane into well-lit paths for Santa Claus’s arrival. “When you get to the end of one street and look down, it looks like a runway,” resident and city clerk Barbara Ward told McClatchy DC in 2009. “It’s beautiful.”
The Locals Love It
One of the best perks of living in Santa Claus, Georgia, is being able to tell folks that you live in Santa Claus, Georgia. “You always get a smile,” resident Helen Wright told McClatchy.
Plan Your Trip
Since Santa Claus doesn’t have any hotels or much in the way of amenities, do as the town’s founder wanted and as you make your way from Macon or Savannah, just pop off the highway and see what the town has to offer. Or at least swing by the Santa Claus Minit Mart for some refreshments and a few photos of the town where it is always Christmas.