SUNDAY TRIBUNE: 19 DECEMBER 2004
NONE of this timely tale is made-up or invented. And no myths have been harmed in its making.
Early on Christmas Eve Santa will lower the handbrake and yank on Rudolph's reins. From that moment on the sleigh will appear as a flashing blip on the radar screens of Norad, the North American Air Defence Command.
If anything moves in the skies Norad wants to know. For 50 years, Santa's travels have been tracked and in recent times relayed live to the world through www.noradsanta.org. With a little help from the military, Santa is on his way.
And he needs it. For over the last decade the internet has added greatly to Santa's workload. Like it or not, he has had to deal with communications technology, like the rest of us mere mortals.
And he got on with and I can exclusively reveal he is not a Windows man. The FAQ on www.Santa Claus.com explains: "Q) What kind of computer does Santa Claus use? A) Santa uses Apple Macintosh computers - a PowerMac G5, 2.5Ghz with 8GB of memory.
"Q) Why does Santa Claus have so many web sites? A) I have a lot of web sites so that people can be sure to find me no matter where they look! I did this one first though in 1994."
He is also an open source supporter as www.Dear Santa.com says the site is "powered by Elfware 1.2".
As if the many websites that Santa has to keep his eye on wasn't enough, there is also the email. Judging by the amount of sites offering to relay messages back and forth from the North Pole, Santa must be fighting his way out of an electronic snowstorm.
Where he finds the time to reply is beyond me but not according to www.EmailSantaClaus.com: "Hi, my name is Rudolph and Santa Claus told me to tell you that he reads each and everyone of your letters himself and he will send you a email greeting when he gets done with reading his letters today."
GreetingsFromSanta.com will send children a personalised letter from Santa "in his handwriting". Not only that but in January the child will receive an oversized postcard of Santa relaxing on the beach. This service comes from Santa's Depot Inc, which is situated in a small town called Santa Claus, Indiana, USA.
www.SantaGram.co.uk reminds us of the past and the excitement of writing to Santa. "In those days there was little chance of a reply but now a telegram from Santa can be arranged".
www.SentBySanta.com also goes in for personalised messages with the added bonus of a North Pole stamp on every letter. If you "buy three, you get one free".
Taking it on a step further, www.SantaClaus House.com offers an exclusive - "a genuine deed to one square inch of North Pole property personalised with the recipient's name and a real lot and block number".
With all that going on it's no wonder then that some sites slip by Santa. www.Santa.info is for sale - offers accepted - and www.Santa-Claus.biz is "coming soon". www.Santa.cn re-directs to www. apartments.us and contains the apt greeting of... em... "under construction".
The one site that could test Santa's stamina, though, might be www.SantaCalledMe.com. Here there's the offer of a "personalised live phone call" from the man himself "direct from his recording studio at the North Pole".
As part of the Deluxe package "one of Santa's elves will place the call and ask for your child and then connect him/her live. Santa will have a relaxed (non-rushed) 7-9 minute call." A CD of the conversation is posted out afterwards along with a letter and gift.
Unfortunately, from next year Santa will have to do without the help of a couple in the US. To date they have "sent out 4,650,003 Santa letters". They have decided to stop because "we are senior citizens and our social security does not go far enough to cover all the expenses.
"Some folks ask for 15 to 20 letters to be sent by regular mail, without even sending the postage paid envelope. We can no longer do that. We are truly sorry, because we have enjoyed this for so many years.
"Oh well our computer is tired anyway. God bless you all. We love you all".
The last site worth a mention was overly-keen to identify visitors by geographic address. I was informed "that Santa Claus will be in Dublin, Dublin around midnight. He knows when you are sleeping and he knows when you are awake. Please try to be asleep so Santa can finish his trip to the Ireland on time. It's 3am, you should be sleeping".
No arguments here Santa.