The Arctic is a natural refuge for stealthy culture heroes like Santa Claus and Superman. Not only does it offer seclusion from international fame, but its harsh climate and top-of-the-world mystique can help burnish anyone's superhuman credentials.

Of course, the Arctic is now in dire straits due to manmade climate change, threatening more than just Santa's workshop and Superman's Fortress of Solitude. We recently listed seven reasons why the decline of Arctic sea ice matters to everyone, including its ability to reflect solar heat and regulate global weather patterns.

But while the Arctic is changing before our eyes, it still boasts much of its iconic beauty and magic — especially in winter. And thanks to a peaking 11-year sunspot cycle, that beauty is now backlit by some of this century's wildest northern lights yet.

As Christmas casts a global spotlight on the region, here are six of 2012's best Arctic aurora videos, plus a bonus look from the perspective of Inuit elder Alice Ayalik.

Happy holidays!

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