December 24, 2011


Santa's Sanctuary: Jolly Old Elf's Been On Top Of The World For Nearly 150 Years, But Is His Territorial Claim Legally Valid? (WILLIAM WEIR, December 11 2005, Hartford Courant)

[C]an a large-scale venture like Santa's workshop operate in the North Pole without treading on international law?

His current legal status is fairly solid. Despite contrary claims, no one owns the North Pole. Maritime law considers the northern polar cap to be high seas, so Santa is free to set up shop there. That doesn't mean it's easy to do, lacking sovereignty and without military might.

Some of Santa's tangled situation is of his own doing. His mythos depends on universality - he belongs to the world, not just one nation. It's a heartwarming notion, certainly, but one that could mean a world of trouble for him. Without backing from a specific government, Santa's workshop falls under free-lancer status. That's a risky undertaking on the high seas. With no government to back you up, you're easy pickings for any band of well-armed criminals.

"Marauders and ice pirates would be much less likely to attack a place with sovereignty," says Christopher Joyner, director of the Institute of International Law & Politics at Georgetown University.

We could assume that nations would aid Santa in an emergency, but assumptions don't carry much weight with investors and insurance companies.

"You'd want to have the backing of economic investors, and the only way you can do that is to have sovereignty," Joyner says. "No one wants to invest in an enterprise with no nation behind it."

Santa could declare himself an agent of "common heritage of mankind," Joyner suggests. The legal concept goes back some 40 years and gives international protection to resources that profit all of humanity. As Santa's legal counsel, Joyner would present his client as "an agent of wealth redistribution" based on his yearly gift-giving jaunts.

But the very few instances of successful application make it a long shot. Only the deep sea bed has wide acceptance as common heritage, while the moon and other celestial bodies have limited acceptance. Chile's campaign to deem Antarctica a common heritage of mankind went nowhere. An ongoing campaign seeks that status for the human genome.

Joyner points out another complication: "You've got to believe in Santa to get gifts." Such a stipulation virtually eliminates many Third World and Far Eastern nations where Santa rarely gets mentioned. And that casts significant doubt on any claims of global beneficence.

Where's Mr. Weir been?, Dreaming of a quiet Christmas (Japan Times, 12/11/05)
December and Christmas: Even in non-Christian Japan, the two go together as naturally as holly and ivy. In fact, December in Tokyo can sometimes seem almost as Christmassy as December in Rome. Christmas trees appear on street corners and in store windows. Garlands and wreaths, tinsel and red candles abound. Vendors do a roaring trade in Stollen and kurisumasu keeki. Teams of jolly Santa Clauses materialize. And everywhere the tinkling, chiming ding-a-linging of Christmas carols fills the air. Whatever else it may be here on Christmas Eve, it is not "Silent Night."

Asia adopts Christmas (Robert Marquand, 12/23/02, The Christian Science Monitor)
Somewhere on the journey to becoming the world's biggest exporter of Christmas toys, China started importing yule for itself.

Christmas wreaths and lighted trees, white-foam snowmen and special dinners, as well as an ethos of "jingle-bell cool" are wafting in on the wings of global culture, bringing a holiday atmosphere to Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.

(Originally posted: 12/12/05)

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Posted by at December 24, 2011 12:03 AM

I imagine that Santa's got a nice sized arsenal to ward off those dastardly Ice Pirates. He's been around too long not to understand the concept of "peace through superior firepower."

Posted by: Timothy at December 12, 2005 3:23 PM

Once those Imperial Canadian Storm Troopers dispatch those pesky vikings who dare to be occuping the sacred ground of Hans Island, and push those barbarians back into Greenland from whence they came, then they can then turn their full attentions to that interloper to their north. That's when Santa should start worrying...

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at December 12, 2005 4:59 PM

Everyone know that Santa is American. Ho Ho Ho

Posted by: Bob at December 12, 2005 5:11 PM

Santa's neighbor is Superman. If Harry Hamlin and the rest of the Ice Pirates tried some rough stuff, I'm sure Superman would have Santa's back. He likes a quiet neighborhood.

Posted by: Bryan at December 12, 2005 5:12 PM

Bryan: But which side would Frankenstein's monster be on? (Assuming he, Superman, and Santa Claus are all different people; ever since the Eric/Julia revelation, I've been quite suspicious...)

Posted by: Just John at December 12, 2005 5:53 PM

When asked for comment on the Santa/Superman North Pole Defense Initiative, Frankenstein's Monster said only, "Fire bad!" He was unwilling to elaborate further.

Posted by: Bryan at December 12, 2005 7:15 PM

Raoul - I hear the Canadian government's only interest in Santa is in protecting their supply of coal.

Posted by: pj at December 12, 2005 8:40 PM

For us non-christians, christmas is a good holiday. I like the smell of the christmas tree we buy every year, exchanging gifts is fun, singing christmas carols about the neighborhood I think brings the neighbors a little closer together, and having christmas dinner with friends and family is a good party. I can definitely understand why the Japanese and Chinese are embracing the holiday - with or without the associated religious beliefs.

Posted by: Bret at December 12, 2005 11:03 PM

Bret: You have a Christmas tree, sing Christmas carols, have Christmas dinner with your family and exchange Christmas presents, and yet believe that you're not Christian? I don't think that word means what you think it means.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 12, 2005 11:50 PM

pj: very witty :)

bryan: also funny

this seems like a sign that asia is moving towards christianity.

Posted by: santa's toe at December 12, 2005 11:56 PM
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