NORTH POLE, Alaska — Maybe it’s the streetlight poles that are painted to look like candy canes, the streets named after Santa’s reindeer, or The Santa Claus house that is complete with a large Santa statue and reindeer, but for Greenfield native Susan (Jones) Currier, her current town of North Pole, Alaska, feels like “Christmas all the time.”
Currier will tell you North Pole, located just outside the larger community of Fairbanks, is one of the most Christmas-themed communities on the planet, and it’s home to just 2,100 people, including former a Nevadan whose has committed so fully to the role of St. Nick he has legally changed his name to Santa Claus.
At this time of the year, the North Pole’s post office is bustling as its staff is inundated by the thousands of letters that are sent from around the world to Santa Claus. Thousands more are sent to the community just so the community’s postmark can be on their Christmas correspondence. The ZIP code for North Pole is the one advertised as Santa’s ZIP code, and a community program responds to letters that are sent to 1 Santa Claus Lane.
For Currier, the North Pole’s population is not much larger than the town she calls home, but definitely colder.
In North Pole, the climate is much more arctic than in Iowa. Because of the way Alaska sits on the planet and the way the earth is tilted, there are months where North Pole sees almost no daylight during the winter and months during the summer where it sees almost no darkness.
“We almost always have solid snow on the ground by Halloween. That will stay on the ground until April or sometime into May,” Currier explained.
Because of snowfall and a lack of sunlight, in the winter months, temperatures in North Pole can plummet to -30 and colder. The coldest Currier has experienced is 57 below zero, however her father-in-law has experienced a 72 below zero reading.
Currier grew up on a farm east of Greenfield, the daughter of Glen and Vernelle Jones. She never planned on moving to the North Pole, but instead, she followed her heart. As students at Graceland University, Currier and an Alaska native named Marlan met and later married in 2008. Because of his work opportunities, they ended up back in Alaska where she taught high school vocal music and has done several other things, like teach Zumba or manage a coffee shop.
The coffee shop Currier has managed since last summer, which her in-laws own, is called Polar Expresso, which plays off of the 2004 holiday movie called “Polar Express.” Currier also operates a small business called Sweet Treats by Susan where she specializes in specially decorated cookies that are popular during the Christmas season.
While Currier says she didn’t grow up in a home where the tradition of Santa Claus was emphasized, she admits that moving to North Pole has engaged her more into the magic of Christmas.
“It’s kind of hard not to because it kind of has a magical feel to it. We do go and visit Santa here and it’s really fun to go to the Santa Claus house,” Currier said. “You catch the Christmas spirit, I would say.”
Currier said that no matter how magical the North Pole feels year round, for her, home will always be Greenfield.
“I have very fond memories of Christmas on the farm,” said Currier. “A white Christmas is guaranteed up here, but I remember the anticipation of ‘it’s maybe going to snow, it’s maybe not.’ It was fun for that to happen.”
Currier recalled gathering with family on Christmas at her grandparents’ house, which was four miles down Stuart Road.
“I would say that no matter how far you might move from small town Iowa — for me, I’m 35,000 miles away — at Christmastime you find yourself still longing for your home and your family, growing up with that small town feel.”