Every Christmas, a slew of letters addressed to Santa make their way to the North Pole.
But where exactly is the North Pole? Depending on your definition of it, there’s more than one—the North Pole, and the North Magnetic Pole.
Here’s everything you need to know about the fabled—but also very real— land, from Santa’s workshop, to his address, and the country and continent it’s on.
Where is the North Pole?
Let’s start with the North Pole you’re probably thinking of: the Geographic North Pole, also known as the Terrestrial North Pole. This is literally the top of the Earth, the northernmost point on the planet, the center of the Northern Hemisphere.
If you look at a map of the North Pole, you’ll notice that the point where it falls happens to be in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. So what continent is the North Pole on? Unlike its counterpart, Antarctica’s South Pole, the Geographic North Pole is not situated on a land mass, though it’s sometimes covered in a floating sheet of sea ice, depending on the seasonal temperature.
With no land to be claimed, the North Pole and its surrounding high seas do not belong to any country. The same goes for the Geographic North Pole’s cousin, the North Magnetic Pole, which is the point on Earth where the planet’s magnetic field points directly downwards (imagine a needle on a compass).
The North Magnetic Pole couldn’t be claimed by a nation anyway because it shifts location over time due to magnetic changes in the Earth’s core, but it generally resides in the Arctic Circle, not far from the Geographic North Pole. The Arctic region in general, however, is the subject of a fierce territorial debate between the United States, Canada, Russia, Norway, and Denmark, which owns the Arctic Circle-bordering Greenland, according to Bloomberg.
What is the weather like in the North Pole?
As you can probably guess, it’s cold. Temperatures in the summer can reach, on average, around 32 degrees Fahrenheit — the freezing point of water. By Christmas time, temperatures drop much lower to around negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit on average.
The North Pole is a land of extremes. Because of the Earth’s tilted axis as it revolves around the sun, sunlight is either constant or not present at all depending on the season, according to National Geographic. In the summer, the sun is always above the horizon at the North Pole, meaning it gets 24 hours of daylight. In the winter, the sun is always below the horizon, plunging the region into complete darkness for 24 hours. In fact, the North Pole only experiences one sunrise and sunset a year at the March equinox and September equinox, respectively, according to the magazine.
The climate of the North Pole could be changing due to global warming, too, according to NASA scientists, the Guardian reported. Record temperatures and melting ice caps have led scientists to fear about the North Pole’s ecosystem and its wildlife — as well as rising sea levels that could someday flood coastal cities.
Does Santa have a workshop in the North Pole?
Of course he does — just not at the Geographic North Pole because the constantly shifting ice sheets makes it difficult to operate a place that is supposed to supply all of the world’s children with Christmas presents.
Rather, Santa’s workshop is situated at a different North Pole — North Pole, New York, a village within the town of Wilmington. Here, visitors can explore the Village of Lights, watch live performances of holiday-themed musicals, and even sit down for breakfast with Santa Claus himself.
And as a fun fact, there’s another North Pole in the U.S. that travelers can visit: North Pole, Alaska. While Santa hasn’t made it the home of his workshop, the city is known for its year-round Christmas decorations and the Santa Claus House, a Christmas store brimming with children’s letters to Santa along its wall. The streets even have names like Kris Kringle Drive and Mistletoe Lane.