A Norwegian newspaper had to apologise for publishing a classified ad which declared that Santa Claus was dead.

The hoax ad in Aftenposten, published on 3 December, said Santa Claus died at the age of 226. The funeral was to be held on 28 December at the North Pole chapel.

The ad also said Santa was born on 12 December, 1788.

The newspaper issued a statement saying: "Aftenposten has strict guidelines for both the content and use of symbols in our obituaries. This ad is a violation of these and should never have been published. We will verify the matter now to find out how this has happened."

The newspaper also said the obituary was removed as soon as they were notified.

Stories about the mythical Father Christmas are expected to do the rounds of the Internet given that Christmas is near.

A faux-documentary last year, called "The Secret Santa" and broadcast by the TV channel TLC, caught audiences wondering about the truth behind the myth. It showed a man named Lucas A Nast who was working miracles across the US and the only criminal chargesheet against him was regarding the illegal transfer of a reindeer.

The man looked like the mythical character and worked for the "Letters to Santa" programme.

Audiences, after watching the so-called documentary, went into a tizzy over whether Santa was real.