Breaking news from the far North

THE NORTH POLE - Santa Claus is real.

This is the stunning and unexpected news from north of the Arctic Circle today after polar explorers discovered an isolated village inhabited by Santa Claus, his wife and several dozen dwarf-like elves.

The discovery puts to rest an age-old dispute between children and their older siblings. Children have long maintained that the mysterious elf actually exists, only to suffer scorn from older brothers and sisters.

Older children argued that Claus was incapable of the magical acts attributed to him.

The team of explorers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution came upon Santa's village by chance. Expedition leader Billy Mistletoe placed the village's position within a half-mile of the North Pole - the northernmost point on Earth.

"There was a lot of snow this morning and we weren't making much progress," Mistletoe recounted. "All of a sudden, this beautiful little village appeared through the squalls, pretty as a postcard."

Mistletoe, convinced he was losing it, tapped a colleague on the shoulder. His colleague saw the village and theorized that it could be the home of the fabled  Claus.

"I let out a hoot when I heard that," Mistletoe said. "Then I thought to myself, I never actually saw who left me all those presents when I was a kid ..."

Claus, clearly pressed for time due to the impending holiday, answered questions during a hastily arranged press conference.

How had he eluded detection for so long?

"Ho, ho, ho, that's easy," answered the mirthful Claus, whose legal name is Kris Kringle. "You have to remember that there is no land beneath the North Pole, only ice. And the ice takes the form of a giant floe that moves with the tides. "

"Every time someone came up here to plant a flag or check the temperature or something, they were always adults and not children, so they never thought to look for us," said Claus with a chuckle, his largish belly quivering. "How quickly they forget."

Where did he find the time to deliver all the Christmas presents in a single night?

"I've been at this more years than I care to admit," Claus chuckled. "You learn a few shortcuts along the way."

For such a jovial figure, is there anything he finds irritating?

"Just a few things," Claus responded. "Stale cookies. Chimney flues that need a good sweeping. And, how can I forget, naughty boys and girls."

"To those who believe in me, I thank you," Claus said in conclusion. "But the big day is less than 24 hours away and I've got a heck of a sleigh ride to prepare for."

With that, the formidable - what some would consider obese - figure scurried off to his shingled, many-gabled workshop to check on toy-making and reindeer takeoff practice.

As might be expected, people around the world were stunned by the Christmas Eve revelation. Others said they would believe it when they actually saw Claus in person and reverted to their grumpy, Scrooge-like selves.

But the reaction among children was one of universal delight.

"I hate to say I told you so," said Emma "Jingle" Bells, 4, of Plymouth. "But I won't because I've worked hard to get on that 'who's been nice' list and we're coming down to the wire."

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