Santa will not retire
Age won’t keep Julenissen from his work
“My goal is to answer 25 percent of the incoming letters,” Santa says. Behind the Santa beard is Tom Kristiansen, 72, tourism manager and Santa of the Norwegian Christmas town of Drøbak.
Kristiansen is the first Santa on the Frogn Municipality payroll in Drøbak, a town of about 15,000 inhabitants. Surrounded by 200,000 letters from all over the world, Santa starts working at 7:00 in the morning.
“Dear Santa. I wish for a new aunt for Christmas. The one I have is awful! Ciao, Silvia, Italy.”
“Dear Santa Claus. Will you give Tony Blair a stomachache this Christmas and make sure he gets a horrible year? Bernhard, England.”
“May I get a girlfriend?”
All kinds of letters from all ages reach the tiny post office by the harbor next to the Lutefisk Museum. He’s been receiving these letters for nearly 25 years. In 2012, he even received the King’s Medal of Merit for his role as Santa, as well as his position as tourism manager.
But there have been tough times for Norway’s Santa Claus too. During a financial crisis, the budget had no money for postage. A private donation saved his job.
A few years ago, Kristiansen also began to worry he would be forced to retire as a political party had suggested 70 as a proper age for retirement. But the municipality decided to keep the Santa, who has been a popular figure all over the world for years.
But what happens when Norway’s first Father Christmas employed by the municipality does retire? “Today’s Santa hopes to continue a long time, of course, as long as the municipality rules do not force him to retire,” answers Kristiansen, who is already two years on “overtime.”
Retirement because of age ought to be unheard of, he argues. But the city’s Head of Culture Pål Mørk says it continues to be under debate, as it has to do with the municipality employment protection.
Drøbak is a town of historical interest; this is where the German ship Blücher was sunk during the German attack on Norway on the morning of April 9, 1940. The ship transported German soldiers passing Oscarsborg Fortress, and the sinking of the ship delayed the German invasion and allowed the government, parliament, and royal family to evacuate to England. The fortress is located five minutes by ferry from Santa’s post office, with hotels, spas, and even an opera each year.
The Christmas House, a chapel from 1877, was sold to Eva and Willy Johansen in 1986. Two years later they officially opened the Christmas House, called Tregaardens Julehus. This year Drøbak will publish a book about Santa, a proof of his existence.
“The Santa of Drøbak exists until proven otherwise,” says Mørk.
Visit www.julehus.no to learn more about the Christmas House. The Tourist Information Office is open on weekdays all year round; visit www.visitdrobak.no for more information about the town.
This article originally appeared in the Dec. 15, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784.4617.