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Strange Maps

429 – Mappy Holidays!

Festive cheer is upon us, and some of it is even permeating this blog. But what does Christmas have to do with cartography? Well, there is Christmas Island – three of them, in fact, one of which was discussed here about a year ago (#228). And then there is this Christmas card, made and sent in by Russell Piekarski. It uses a collage of several countries and a few US states to create an image of Santa, his reindeer and sleigh (full of presents), some Christmas stockings and of course a fully trimmed Christmas tree. I will leave it to you, dear reader, to list all the countries and states used to create this image.

Another cartographic approach to Christmas is shown on this second map, sent in by Marc Eno, laying out the probability of a white Christmas for the US’s Lower 48 states. Remarkably, the southern area where snowfall by the 25th of December historically is least likely, is almost perfectly demarcated by the so-called Missouri Compromise Line, the parallel running at 36°30′ north (and forming the border between North Carolina and Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky, Missouri and Arkansas, also running close by the border between Oklahoma and Kansas, New Mexico and Colorado, and Arizona and Utah). South of that line, chances of a white Christmas are mostly below 5%, with a few 5-10% patches thrown in. Only the Rocky Mountain range in New Mexico significantly break this pattern. Those Rockies further north are practically the only areas outside of northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Maine with over 90% likelihood of Christmas snow.

Finally, this Holiday Thematic Toponym Map, devised and sent in by Douglas Caldwell, lists some of Santa’s Favorite Places, as found in the Geographic Names Information System, that lists over 2 million toponyms in the US and its dependencies.

  • Almost all of Santa’s reindeer are represented on the US map. Dasher in Georgia, Donner in Florida (others in Louisiana and Canada), Comet in Missouri (and half a dozen other states), Vixen in Louisiana, Dancer Branch in Tennessee, Mount Blitzen in Nevada (there’s a Donner und Blitzen River in Oregon, which has the only other eight Blitzen-related place-names in the US), Cupid Lake in Minnesota, and – even though he is extracanonical – Rudolph in South Dakota (and four other states). The odd one out is Prancer, whose name apparently is yet to be attached to a place in America;
  • There is, however, a generic Reindeer Cove, Maine (there’s actually also one in Alaska, near Nome);and a Sleigh Canyon, in Utah;
  • There is a Stocking Hill in upstate New York;
  • Besides Elf, North Carolina there is also, less cheerfully, an Elf Cemetery in Pennsylvania;
  • Santa Claus, Arizona is a former tourist attraction (and currently a ghost town); two other Santa Clauses are located in Indiana (the world’s only Santa Claus with a post office) and Georgia.
  • Colorado has a Yule Creek;
  • Chimney Mountain in Oklahoma is one of eight throughout the country, and North Pole in Idaho is one of a handful sprinkled across the country (also, no wonder, in Alaska).
  • Many thanks to Mr Piekarski for the appropriate card, to Mr Eno for the White Christmas Prediction map (taken here from the National Weather Forecast office in St Louis, Missouri), and to Mr Caldwell for producing this map of Santa’s Special Places. And mappy holidays to you all!


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