Santa trackers turn to social media
Gone are the days of children huddling around the radio on Christmas Eve waiting for the latest on Santa's travel progress.
Now media-savvy children can track the jolly fellow through any number of ways including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
For the 55th year in a row, Norad (North American Aerospace Defence Command) is tracking the flight pattern of Santa. This year will include streaming video of his journey.
Through the Norad Tracks Santa website, children will be able to follow his route by watching streamed videos captured by Norad "Santa Cams" from various cities.
Children will be able to track Santa through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and TroopTube. He can also be tracked using Google Maps and Google Earth plug-ins.
"There are a lot of people who follow this in different ways," said Lt. Desmond James, a public affairs officer with Norad, in Colorado.
Last year the site saw some 13 million users around the world log on to track all things related to Santa, with more than 400,000 using Facebook and another 3,400 followers on Twitter.
And this year the numbers are growing even more. As of Thursday morning, James said, they have seen some 465,000 users on Facebook.
Canada Post, which for decades has been offering the chance for children to write to Santa at the North Pole using its HOH OHO postal code, included an email option in 2002 to help to get their letters to him a lot quicker.
Since then, it has handled more than 300,000 emails including 45,000 alone in 2009.
Jennifer Arnott, a spokeswoman for Canada Post for the Toronto area, said it is too early to tell how many have emailed Santa this year.
Meanwhile, Portable North Pole, a project launched by Montreal-based video web developer UgroupMedia, sends kids personalized videos from Santa — even those who deserve a lump of coal. Tell the site your kid hasn't been so good, and the video Santa peers over his glasses and tells the child: "You're on my naughty watch."
Another site, TextSanta.net, expects to send out close to 100,000 texts this year.
But the unfettered access can also lead to problems, as spoiled kids can be tempted to be naughtier than nice in their messages to Santa.
"Some people have texted Santa that aren't so happy with Santa," said Drew Olanoff, who plays Santa on a U.S.-based text messaging system. "They've been a little rude. I've let them know that would be considered bad behaviour. You really shouldn't talk to Santa like that."
Despite the number of options for keeping in touch with Santa, most are not worried that the tradition of writing a letter will ever end.
"I think there will always be a place for writing a letter to Santa. Kids love to send Santa pictures that they have drawn. Sometimes they cut out pictures from the catalog of items that they particularly want," Canada Post's Arnott said.
"There is always a place for a letter to Santa, especially children that don't get around to writing to Santa until right before Christmas, email is a good option."
With files from Associated Press