May you all have a safe, healthy, peaceful, and prosperous new year in 2009!
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
May you all have a safe, healthy, peaceful, and prosperous new year in 2009!
Thursday, December 25, 2008
I hope it was a wonderful Christmas for all of you. I think this may have been my best yet.
My Christmas day started about four hours after we landed back at the North Pole. Mrs Claus and I had to wrap up the Operations before we headed home for our traditional Christmas brunch. For some reason, having a nice, leisurely-paced breakfast with Mrs. Claus after the long night and even longer Christmas Eve preparations seems like a luxury. I really start to relax. As I always do, I took a quick nap after breakfast. But not too long... my senior staff came over for a Christmas Day celebration. Its an intimate little gathering... just 20 or so of us (including guests), good food & drink, and a Holiday-season's worth of stories to tell on each other. We all enjoy each other so much more when the pressure is off and we can just relax.
After everyone left, I fell asleep on the recliner as I do each year, next to a roaring fire, surfing the movie channels (Did I mention, we are getting free movie channels as a promotion from our cable provider?). Mrs. Claus woke me up in the early evening hours so I wouldn't sleep the night away. We went for a walk, hand-in-hand, around the Village to enjoy the lights and the lightly falling snow. When we got back from our walk, Mrs. Claus made hot chocolate while I brought in more wood for the fireplace. Once we got settled, with the fire once again roaring and the hot chocolate in our mugs, we exchanged gifts. Last year I was spot on with the gifts for Mrs. Claus after about 10 years in a row of getting it wrong. But this year, I was right back to my old ways... everything I got was either the wrong size, wrong color, or wrong style. Ugh! Yes, even I have problem giving gifts to my spouse! So don't feel bad if you find yourself in the returns line tomorrow morning. The good news is that Mrs. Claus was very understanding and we had a very Merry Christmas anyway. After all, the gifts are just a symbol.
Well, Mrs. Claus has retired for the evening. I'm pretty tired but I wanted to check in with you before I take a 10 or 12 hour "nap" for the first time in a few months and wish you a very Merry Christmas before the day is over. I hope you have some time this week between Christmas and New Years Day to relax and re-energize for the new year ahead. If you do, take the time to focus on your blessings. If you find you are truly blessed... as I believe you will... make a point to share those blessings with someone else during these last days of the Holiday season.
Merry Christmas, everyone! With Love, Santa
...and to all a Good Night! The last presents have been delivered, the last cookie eaten, the last glass of milk consumed, and the last stocking filled. Once we get the "all clear" signal from the North Pole Command Center, we'll point the sleigh due north and return home. I hope everyone has had as much fun this Christmas Eve as I have had tonight. Tomorrow is going to be the best Christmas yet!
Good night, all! I will not update my log until late in the day to day as I plan on enjoying Christmas brunch with Mrs. Claus and taking a nap.
"And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins." - Matthew 1:21
I just left Alaska. Talk about cold! Brrr. Even for us North Pole residents!
But the best news is that I'm headed south to the Hawaiian Islands. I'll make a few stops between but I can shed the jacket for a few minutes and swap out my Starbucks Christmas blend coffee for some 100% Kona coffee. At least while I'm cruising through the Islands. L ove it down there. Mrs. Claus and I will be back in the Islands for our annual vacation in a little more than a week. Can't wait!
To all of you now awake across Europe, Asia, Africa, & Australia/Oceania... Merry Christmas!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
We are back on track! I am currently entering the Vancouver, BC area. After delivering here and north through western Canada, I'll cut back down through the western US. Overall, things are going very well. I'm going to spend a little extra time here with a little girl I know that is fighting cancer as well as with her sister. I can't let them see me... but I am so proud of both of them that I want to take a little time and make sure they are tucked in and sleeping well. I never cease to be amazed by the strength and character of children that face cancer. They are wise & strong beyond their years. And they are truly an inspiration to me. That's one reason I always have a link to St Jude's Children Hospital here on the blog. I encourage you to check out the link.
Ok... we are touching down at the first house now. I'll post again soon.
I am currently just outside Mexico City. I realize its been a little while since I last posted... I've been very busy as we've criss-crossed South & North America. The vast majority of my deliveries are in this section of the world so I've had very little time to post to my blog. I do want you to know that the reindeer are doing well. These final few hours will be the toughest but they are as strong as I have ever seen them. I think it must be all the apples that everyone is leaving out for them. As for me, I'm doing just fine. I've been downing Starbuck Christmas Blend coffee while in flight and filling up on various treats, milk, tea, & hot chocolate at virtually every house (I'm stuffed!!).
Ok... I still have a long night ahead of me, so I'm going to get back to it. For those of you on the Pacific coast, its time to go to bed. I'll be there before you know it.
I am currently looking down at the blue lights of Graceland. What a beautiful sight! But I can't look too long... we have to clear this airspace quickly. Our friends at FedEx are holding their routes so that we can deliver our presents across the Memphis metro area. I'll be zig-zagging across from Lakeland, TN to Hernando, MS over the next hour or so. I need to stay on time so that I can clear the airspace and let our partners at FedEx (we do a lot of business with them... they help with distribution from our North Pole, China, & India production facilities to our replenishment centers) get back in the air. We definitely don't want them missing their deliveries! So kids... if you live in the mid-South of the United States, its time to get to bed!
Merry Christmas! I am making my way toward South & North America. I will be there before you know it. We remain on track, despite a few minor incidents & unexpected events. That is a credit to the planning & preparation of the team back at the North Pole HQ. Everything is going well; however, I regret to say that I have had several real-time updates to the naughty and nice on-board database. Approx 25 addresses have been removed from my list of places to stop. Kids - please make sure you are behaving your parents tonight. I'll post again soon.
First of all... don't panic. Everything is fine now. But... wow.
We had already made a couple of stops in Manchester earlier tonight when I set down next to a row of flats. The elf scout team had already been in... about half an hour earlier. They were able to gather alarm codes, unlock doors & windows, and verify everyone was asleep. Just like normal, everything was prepped and ready for me to get in and get out undetected and on schedule. Except we were hoodwinked!
I opened the door to the second flat in the row and BOOM! Spotlights came on, cameras flashed, and the red light on two different cameras lit up. Standing at the opposite end of the room was a reporter, who introducted himself by screaming "Gotcha!". I'm not going to mention the name of the network he was with as I now have reason to believe he was operating independent of his employer. I hit my panic button (I always have a remote panic button with me on Christmas Eve) and jumped back out the door. The sleigh alarms went off and within seconds my elf security detail was closing in on the house. I stumbled down the front steps with the reporter and his cameramen chasing after me. As I hit the bottom (on my bottom), the elves tackled all three men. But the alarms startled the reindeer. They immediately took to the air. Two other members of the security detail whisked me into their sleigh. All I could think about was whether or not they got my awkward stumble on the steps on tape.
Fortunately, everything was secured and a plausible explanation was given to all of the neighbors that had gathered outside prior to the police arriving. I was transported to a predetermined site where I met up with my reindeer team and we resumed our schedule. I am very happy to report that all of the tapes and pictures were confiscated & destroyed by the security detail. We are fairly confident the reporter & camera men won't risk talking about the incident with no physical evidence to back up their story.
I'm back on course now and looking forward to heading to South & North America soon. Rudolph also wants me to tell you that the reindeer team is feeling good thanks to all the apples you all have been providing. Thank you!
We remain on track as we begin the western European phase of our Christmas Eve Operation. I just got off the phone with Mrs. Claus and she is reporting all is well at HQ and at all of our worldwide replenshment centers. The Asia, Africa, and Pacific based replenishment centers are all now formally shut down and the staff are headed home to spend the rest of Christmas with their families. The eastern European and Middle East replenishment centers are now ramping down their operations and should be able to go home within the next couple of hours. In North & South America, operations are standing ready for our arrival. Some snow across Canada and the northern US was causing issues earlier today but those have been resolved.
I do want to take a moment and thank all of the wonderful employees & partners of North Pole Inc. for their dedication to making this night (and tomorrow morning) a such a huge success. They are all... every individual... as responsible for the magical spirit of Christmas as I am. I realize I get a lot of the headlines and credit but without the thousands of individuals around the world that care so much for the children, this would not be possible. To all of you, I offer the deepest and heart-felt THANK YOU. You have made the world a better place.
Before we touch down on this next rooftop, I want to remind you that we do have a battery shortage. There are teams scrambling in North & South America to try and get last minute shipments to our replenishment centers but it remains likely that I may not be able to deliver all of the batteries required. I apologize for that right now but hope that it doesn't keep you from having a great Christmas.
We are currently at one of our European Replenishment Centers in eastern Europe. Due to security reasons, I can not tell you the exact location. I had to wait until we landed here as we have been using the back-up communications system exclusively for communication to the North Pole HQ. While the reindeer are being fed and the sleigh re-loaded, the technicians are looking at our communications system. They are confident we'll be back to our primary communications by the time we leave here.
As we suspected might be the case, we are arriving here in eastern Europe just as the cold front hits. We are running smack into it. We are plenty comfortable though. Africa was quite warm... so its good to be back in the cool weather. Plus my coffee is keeping me plenty warm... I'm on about my 15th mug! The reindeer all report they are feeling good. In fact, Rudolph wanted me to send a message that he says "Merry Christmas!" to all the kids. He didn't want me to tell you this, but he and the other reindeer LOVE apples. If you have an apple you can leave out for them, they would very much appreciate it. In fact, if you have to choose, I'd rather you leave the reindeer an apple than leaving me cookies or other sweets.
Ok... I'm getting the signal that communications are back up and we are ready to go. I'll post again soon!
It's really warm down here in Africa. This is a challenging region as the number of people who celebrate Christmas and believe in Santa is small. And the population is really spread out. And in the rural settings, there are some areas that are really difficult to navigate into. Plus the reindeer are always on alert for predators! Ok.... I'll post again soon.
Merry Christmas, Everyone.
I am still running a little behind schedule. Nothing to worry about though. We are currently in Indian airspace. We'll be setting down at our replenishment station in just a few moments. From there we'll cover the much of India & central Asia before stopping in the Middle East for yet another replenishment before heading down into Africa.
We have been experiencing some communication issues just as we did last year. I believe that it has something to do with the communications infrastructure in this part of the world. We are now using our back-up communications systems. My blog posts take second priority to communications with the North Pole Operations. As such, some of my posts may experience a bit of delay.
I do plan on spending some extra time in Mumbai. The citizens here have been through a lot recently. I am very proud of the way they have pulled together and are helping each other. I hope that I can do something... even if its small... to let them know they are in my prayers.
For those of you in Europe.... I'll be there very soon. Get to bed!
I am currently departing Shanghai and headed north. There is quite a bit of turbulence. Gotta keep the lid on my fresh cup of Starbucks Christmas blend... I don't want to be wearing it like I was last year. And it is really cold. I'm not complaining though because the reindeer are much more comfortable in this than they were down south of the equator. And we'll be in the heat of Africa before you know it.
I am a little behind schedule. There aren't a lot of people in China that celebrate Christmas... and even fewer that believe in me... but there were a few folks that were out and up way past their bedtime. I had to re-direct and make some deliveries west of the city and then double-back after they got to bed. I plan on making up the time before I leave Western China.
I did notice two unique things here in Shanghai. There was a beautiful Christmas tree. That was unusual in itself... there aren't many trees here for Christmas. But what was unique was that it was decorated with handmade Chinese ornaments, Chinese fabric swaths, and chopsticks. Very cleverly done... very Chinese. And then in another house, they actually left me a fortune cookie. I don't think I have ever gotten a fortune cookie as one of my goodies. The fortune read "The future is better than the past". I'm not sure what that means but I like it.
Oh... one last thought from China... do you know what I'm known as here? "Christmas Old Man" is the rough translation. How do you like that? UGH!
I am currently at the second Replenishment Center. Due to security reasons, the exact location must remain undisclosed.... all I can say is that I am in Japan at the moment. As the sleigh is being re-loaded, I'm taking a very brief break to update my web log. The reindeer have been showered and are eating before resuming flight. We are all enjoying the cooler weather. So far, deliveries through most of the Pacific Islands in both northern & southern hemispheres on this side of the International Dateline have been completed as have some deliveries in Japan and other parts of Far East Asia. We are about to double back and cover the remainder of Japan before heading across to eastern Russia and then down the eastern coast of China. We are currently right on schedule. We'll be entering each time zone between 9 and midnight.... so make sure you are getting to bed on-time to help ol' Santa stay on schedule. I'm being told the sleigh is loaded and ready for take-off... so enough for now. Remember you can track my travels today at http://www.noradsanta.org/
I am at the first replenishment center in Australia. Due to security reasons, I can not tell you the exact location of the center. The flight remains on schedule. I have gone undetected throughout the South Pacific & New Zealand. The reindeer remain strong but the warm weather is beginning to get to us. After we replenish here, we'll finish in Melbourne then start to head north through Indonesia and then up into Japan & the rest of Asia. I'm sure the reindeer will appreciate the cooler weather in Japan.
I love the warm weather! It feels great down here in the South Pacific! Don't misunderstand me... the North Pole is home and there is no place like home, but its hard to beat the warm, summer tradewinds of the South Pacific.
I've had to take my coat and sweater off. I'm down to my short sleeve shirt right now... and its nice. Jingle is with me and he has activated the cooling system that sprays the reindeer team with cool water. They are doing well.... it's amazing how well they handle the dramatic temperature changes. The weather has been good so far...though the launch was a little rough as we had high winds. Overall, its a great start.
Anyway... I'll be keeping you posted on my route tonight. I have my laptop with me and am using the same satellite connection I use to stay in contact with Mrs. Claus to post updates to my blog. Keep checking in. And don't forget, NORAD is tracking me as well.
See you soon!
The sleigh is loaded and on the pad. All other orders are at their respective Replenishment Centers. The flight plan is confirmed. The reindeer are hitched to the sleigh. I am now on-board the sleigh and communicating my messages to this web-page via satellite communications.
We are "All Systems Go" for lift-off.
You can track my progress at http://www.noradsanta.org/. I will also use the on-board computer to write periodic updates when I have the opportunity.
"Now Dasher! now Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen! On Comet! on Cupid! on Donder and Blitzen!"
This is my FAVORITE day of the year! It is just after midnight on Wednesday, December 24th. Operation Christmas Eve 2008 is now fully underway. The entire North Pole crew is in full gear for the next 24+ hours. Many - myself, Mrs. Claus, and the senior elf staff included- started around 4am this morning and we'll just work all the way through. Close to 48 hours of no sleep. But we are powered by pure, high-octane Christmas Spirit.
I am about to walk over to the sled inspection. The reindeer are sleeping right now but will be awakened in about 3.5 hours to eat the big carbo-loading breakfast and begin their preparations. I am ready to go!
I'll be updating my log periodically today. You can also track my progress today at http://www.noradsanta.org/
Monday, December 22, 2008
Christmas Eve Eve... The Eve of THE Eve.... December 23rd.
Most everything seems to be looking good and on-track for this to be the best Christmas Eve ever! The only 'glitch' at the moment is the weather across North America and parts of northern Europe & Asia. We are not yet able to confirm our final flight plan. (note: There is much more information on my weather report at Underground Weather.... check it out by clicking on the link.) That has a ripple effect that impacts where we position replenishment inventory, etc. The good news is, we seem to be firming up on our Naughty and Nice list. (A word of warning... there are a few of you out there on the borderline. Don't think you are safe just yet! Keep being nice!)
As far as today goes... all I can say is "Wow". 1 hour of sleep and then it was back to full speed. It was an exciting morning. I knew as soon as the alarm went off that it was about to be a mad rush to the Christmas Eve finish line. It's 24 hours a day right through the final delviery.
I started my morning with a run. It was snowing heavily but I needed the time to clear my head. There is a lot going on this time of year and even I can get a little stressed.... but the run helped quite a bit. By the time I had gone home, ate breakfast, changed into my work clothes, and headed across the village square to the Head Quarters, the team was already in full force. Everyone was hustling around with last minute preparations.
In addition to the normal mall appearances, I also had staff meetings, a few media appearances, parades, and a brief tour of the production, distribution, and replenishment centers. I can tell you after the tours and staff meetings that overall readiness is very good. It may be the best we have ever been. 2008 is going to be a very good Christmas!
The rest of the day is pretty busy as well. I have another staff meeting, a last minute negotiation with Iraq over airspace rights, and a few media appearances. Then, I'm going to enjoy a nice late dinner with Mrs. Claus in a few hours (closer to 11pm), then at the stroke of midnight, Operation Christmas Eve 2008 officially kicks in. I'm not going to be the only one going non-stop... Mrs. Claus basically orchestrates the entire Christmas Eve operation from the North Pole. She is the one at the command center who calls all the shots. Jingle, as my Chief of Staff, plays a critical role in overseeing the execution of the night's operational plan but Mrs. Claus is in charge overall. She keeps an eye on the big picture, sets the priorities for the night, and approves any changes to plan. Alot of TV shows picture her handing over a scarf and admonishing me to be careful as I leave and then meeting me with hot chocolate and cookies upon my return. The silliness of the suggestion that I'd even consider another cup of hot chocolate or cookies after a night of feasting on it at virtually every house aside, Mrs. Claus is actually in the Command Center, focused on the night's activities. The night's operation doesn't end when the sleigh touches down at the North Pole either. The operation is officially underway until we have verified all the gifts were delivered to their intended destinations, the sleigh is moved to the hangar, the reindeer are fed & examined by our medical teams, and all Centers except the Command Center are shut-down for the night. I am typically at home and waiting for Mrs. Claus with hot chocolate and cookies when she gets home.
Speaking of getting home, I've got a few emails to answer and a phone call to make before I go meet Mrs Claus for that late dinner. Have a good night. Go to bed early, kids!
The deadline for requests is quickly approaching. In just a few short hours, time will be up. There are a few extra hours for those of you that choose to use text messaging and/or email.
Toy production is in full swing. Bo reports that we remain ahead of schedule. We have been unable to finalize the flight plan though due to the unusual weather across most of the northern hemisphere. Nevertheless, the reindeer teams and elves have been very busy today shuttling product from the North Pole to the various replenishment centers around the world. We also have cargo planes shuttling containers from the Asia-based production facilities. It was a very busy day for North Pole Inc!
All indicators are that we are set for one of the best Christmases ever. I toured a number of the replenishment centers earlier today. Between stops, I made a number of appearances in town squares and at malls around Europe, South America, & North America. Even with the economic
I hope you found Part 1 of my response to the Q&A exercise informative. Given the hectic schedule of this last week, its been hard to find the time to respond for the 2nd part. In fact, I'm actually writing this while I am in route to Buenos Aires. Jingle is flying the sleigh so I can use my laptop and satellite connection to post my answers to the remaining questions. So here goes...
Q. What can you share about your childhood and up bringing that might make all of us better parents to the children you love so much like we do?
A. I lived with my father and mother near the small village of Drobak. My father was an exiled king. Before I was born, he had ruled a kingdom that stretches across much of what is now Germany. Soon after my mother became pregnant with me, my father's younger brother, who had been the next in line for the throne, conspired with a neighboring king to overthrow my father. Fearing for the life of my mother and me, my father fled to Norway. Though my father remained extremely wealthy, having escaped with much of the family treasures, we lived like paupers so as not to draw attention to ourselves. My mother and father both cared greatly for all the people around them. They were always the first ones to pitch in and help a neighbor. Many times, their 'good deeds' were done anonymously and no one ever knew had come to their aid. They were people of great integrity and nothing but doing the right thing ever entered their thoughts, even when it meant personal sacrifice for themselves. But what I think influenced me most was not any one specific action or behavior, but rather a sense I had.... I knew they would me some freedom but with that freedom came accountability. And I knew that no matter what... even while they were holding me accountable... they would always love me. I knew there was nothing I could do that would cause them not to love me. It was that sense of love and accountability, I believe, that had the greatest influence on me. You can read a little bit more about my mother and father in my 16 December post titled "My First Christmas". And you question has inspired me to include some more stories of my childhood during the off-season.
Q. Why is your coat red and white why not blue and green?
A. This is an interesting question because blue actually is my favorite color. I like the darker & deeper blues. Green, particularly forest greens, also happens to be my second favorite color. And I've been told I look much better in blues & greens given my skin tone and blue eyes. But, I chose red and white for a very simple reason. Remember... Christmas is about the birth of Christ. Red is for the blood Jesus shed for our sins. And white is for the purity of our souls after our sins have been washed a way by His blood.
Q. What is your best advice to parents to keep their babies from being afraid of you?
A. A lot of babies are afraid you are going to leave them with me or that they may have to go somewhere with me. Start with reminding them that you aren't going anywhere... that you will be right there where they can see you the entire time. Also, if you think your baby is going to be afraid of me, offer to come up and visit with me first. You can use that time to let me know you think your baby is going to be scared. I'll tone down my Ho, Ho, Hos a little and try to speak a little softer. That helps. If you have a treat or baby toy your child really likes, you can slip that to me as well and I can then offer it to the baby. And if you ask me, I'm willing to stand up and walk over to where you are holding the baby as well... then we can walk back together to my seat. But all of that advice is for right before you come visit me. I suggest you start a day ahead of time telling them that they are going to see me the next day. Show them one of the Christmas shows with me in it.... that goes a long ways toward them feeling like they know me.
I hope that helps!
Q. What type of music do you listen to?
A. Pretty much everything. I like everything from Nickelback to Trace Adkins to Amy Grant. My Nike+ powersong is Greenday's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams". My favorite Christmas carol is "Silent Night, Holy Night" and my favorite modern Christmas song is "Grandma Got Ran Over By A Reindeer...".
Q. How do you get down the chimney? When you come down the chimny and into are houses isnt that breaking and intering? If so I would be more careful because people have security systems these days.
A. Where the chimneys are large enough for me (and many are; I'm not a big as you might think), I have a special dive that I use. But the most important thing for you to remember is that chimney diving is not for everyone. You have to be very well trained. I have trained for years. You should never try it under any circumstance. So with all that said, the fact of the matter is that there are many houses where the chimney is too small for me. In those cases, I enter through other means. I have several scout teams of elves that go in ahead of me to 1) validate I can fit through the chimney, 2) identify alternate entry paths, 3) disable alarms, 4) confirm that everyone in the house is asleep. With their advance information, I really don't have any problems. Now... to your question about breaking and entering... technically it would be in almost every legal jurisdiction around the world except I have a huge legal team that has negotiated special rights for me that allow me to enter. Those rights are only valid on Christmas Eve. And let's face it, when you leave gifts, people don't complain. Now many cities around the world granted me the rights only if I leave gifts, which is why now in many places I just skip a house rather than leaving coal. Coal doesn't legally qualify as a gift... so I just skip the houses in those jurisdictions completely if the residents are on the naughty list.
Q. Why do you use reindeer instead of horses?
A. Because the reindeer fly. And they fly really fast.
Q. Is Rudolph still alive?
A. Absolutely! He will be leading my team again this Christmas Eve. Keep an eye out on Dec 24th for that glowing red nose!
I think that wraps it up! And just in time, I see the lights of Buenos Aires just ahead. Have a great evening and enjoy this wonderful Christmas season!
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Wow! You all gave me some tough and very interesting questions. I don't have time to answer them all in one sitting, but I'll take a stab at some of them now...
Q. How do you deliver all those toys around the world in one night?
A. The key is North Pole Time. I am not the right person to explain exactly how it works, it is far too technical for me... but I can say that because we sit at the junction of all the time zones, there are some unique capabilities we have realized in moving easily between time zones. That - in and of itself - is not all that remarkable. But there is something magical about how we can travel within a time zone and return to the North Pole - no matter how long we have been gone - within the same hour we left as long as we arrive & depart from the Launch pad. The Launch pad is directly on the true North Pole. Time doesn't stop so much as it "re-sets". That's not the best description either but its the closest I can relay at this point. It is this capability that we leverage to deliver to 302M homes in a 24 hour period. If you want to know how we determine how many homes, see my December 20, 2007 post.
Q. Do you ever post any pictures? Can I get a picture of every one at the North Pole?
A. You know, I never have posted any pictures. Your questions made me start to think about it and I have decided that I will start posting pictures next year. The primary reason I haven't posted pictures is simply that I'm a blogging novice... even after doing this blog for my fourth year. I haven't taken the time to learn how to upload them. But Mrs. Claus has told me she would show me how if I want to start doing that. So look for pictures starting some time mid-next year!
Q. I have trouble deciding what to get my own niece and nephew for Christmas, how on earth do you decide what each child around the world should have for Christmas?!?
A. It can be a challenge at times; however, I usually have the benefit of a request directly from the child. With email, internet, and all the other various medium available to kids, they find a way to get their requests to me more often than not, even if they don't visit me at a mall. And when I don't hear from a child, we actually have quite a bit of consumer information available about each child. We have a full team of elves dedicated to gathering "consumer intelligence"... they crawl websites, conduct survelliance, poll parents & friends, and use a variety of highly confidential intelligence gathering techniues to compile a complete set of information on each child. If can not identify a specific request, we use very sophisticated consumer analytics against all of that data to match the best gifts with each child. We find it very effective. Unfortunately, I can't give you access to it. I'd suggest you resort to asking the parents....
Q. How do you REALLY know if we have been good or bad - naughty or nice? Does my mom have your number?
A. Trust me... you know. And yes, your mom does know how to get a hold of me if there is something to report. To determine the "nice list", there is a fairly complex algorithm that we apply, but, it really just boils down to the basics here: Do you treat others as you would treat yourself? Do you obey and honor your parents? Said differently, we apply the basic tenets and values of Judeo-Christian tradition.
Q. This might be too personal a question, but are you on the naughty or nice list this year?
A. Technically, since its my list, I'm not on either one. But I do think I'd be on the nice list. Now don't get me wrong.... even ol' Santa (ugh... I don't like talking about myself in the third person...) is not perfect. I am as human and flawed as anyone. None of us are perfect. That is the exact reason why the true meaning of Christmas is so important. If we were perfect, we wouldn't have needed the birth of Christ.
Q. What kinds of animals do you and Mrs. Claus have other than the reindeer? Any cats or dogs?
Mrs. Claus & I have several animals around. In addition to traditional livestock (i.e. cows, pigs, and chickens) that we maintain at our farm just outside the Village, we do have a horse (named Trigger), dog (a German Shepherd named Joe), and cat (named Susie). I love that dog. He follows me all around the North Pole Village and often joins me on my runs. Mrs. Claus probably prefers the cat. A few years back, Mrs. Claus' brother talked us into raising Alpacas. We bought 12 but that didn't go so well. We ended up giving them away to a couple in Idaho.
Q. There are so many store "Santas" and the like around what should I tell the children on who they are?
A. More times than you might think, that's actually me! I get around to more stores & malls that you might imagine. I leverage North Pole Time (see above) and the speed of the reindeer to make as many stops as I can. But you are correct... it is not always me, the real Santa. So when you see someone that is clearly not me, there is a very good chance that they are one of the contractors we have hired as part of our Intelligence Agency. It is one of the many ways that we gather information on what children want for Christmas. Of course, there are always just average people that want to dress up like me... and if that helps put themselves and other people in the Christmas spirit, then its just fine by me.
Oh yes... LaTrell, I do still plan to stop at your house. Jennifer, I am the REAL Santa and not just a helper. Merry Christmas to both of you!More Q&A responses to come soon. Stay tuned!
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Its not long now until the Christmas Eve operation will be fully in swing. The days here at the North Pole are growing very hectic. It is all very well organized but with elves, reindeer, and other workers scurrying every which way through and between facilities, the average on-looker would think its total chaos.
Most everyone is working 18 hour shifts at this point, with the exception of the main reindeer team. As we enter this final week, we move to 3 overlapping 18 hour shifts. The result is that we get 54 hours of productivity out of every day instead of the normal 24. I know it sounds tiring but the excitement and anticipation of Christmas Eve is more than enough to keep everyone going. Besides, it really is a labor of love by everyone here at the North Pole.
The main reindeer team, led by Rudolph of course, are actually cutting back their schedule. They have been training an average of 12 hours a day, with some peak days approaching 18 hours, for the past 4 weeks as part of their annual fitness preparation. If you could see their training regimen, you would be awed. They fly sprints, they pull massive amounts of weights, they make long endurance flights, they fly obstacle courses, and they swim... for hours and they do all of it both individually and also reined up as a team. And when they are training, they are in the training room getting treated for minor aches & pains or in the dining room trying to replenish the enormous amount of calories they burn during the course of the training. But at this point, they are tapering down their schedule so they can be rested for Christmas Eve. They are starting to mix in stretching and yoga into their schedule, fly much shorter routes, avoid any weight training, and getting daily massages. They love this week every year! The good news is, they all look incredibly healthy and ready to go!
As for me, I'm working between 20 and 22 hours a day. Yeah... I know it sounds crazy but I feel great. And its the only way I can get out and see all you kids while still overseeing the whole North Pole operation. I just wish I had a little more time to contribute to the blog here. Please know that I am going to get to responding to some of the questions and answers early this next week, before Christmas.
Ok... that's it for now as I have to catch a flight to Asia. I'm going to inspect our outsourced China and India production facilities this evening (its morning there) before I come back for our end of day staff meeting.
Be good! Don't forget... I know if you have been naughty or nice.
Friday, December 19, 2008
I have been reading letters from around the world. I've also been skimming some of the "open letters" posted to me on the internet and in newspapers around the world. I love reading all of the kind notes and innocent requests this time of year. If those letters don't put you in the Christmas Spirit, I don't know what will.
I have also started to make mall appearances. And a few snotty nosed kids with attitudes, screaming & terrified toddlers, dirty diapered infants, and adults lamely trying to be funny by sitting on Santa's lap aside, the mall interaction is also largely a lot of fun. And every so often, in one of those interactions with child, I see a little Christmas magic. I see the lights go on in their eyes and I know they leave a different kid... one that will believe in Santa forever. The vast majority of the time, I leave the mall in much better Christmas Spirits than before I arrived. It is this that gives me the energy to get through the day.
Nevertheless, there are always a few requests that I just can not fill or are absurdly insane. "What?!" you may ask incredulously. But let me remind you that I am not supernatural. I have limits just like everyone else. So I want to take this opportunity, with less than a week before Christmas Eve, to set some expectations.
First, I simply can not fill requests for husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, etc. The Legal department here at North Pole Inc. has been very clear that fulfilling any such requests could be construed as an act in violation of International Human Trafficking laws. The risk of such a perception is too great and far outweighs any benefits that could be gained. We can, however, recommend a few good match-making sites upon request.
We also have a number of requests for exorbitant gifts. More often than not, the folks that make those requests are on the "Naughty" list. But for those that are on the "Nice" list, we do have a few rules. We do not deliver gifts over US$25,000 in value unless there is a special exemption granted by our independent auditors. Granting requests over US$25,000 usually requires a pretty extensive background check and involves someone with a life-long tenure on the "Nice" list. Gifts between US$1,000 and US$24,999 also require a minimum of 2 consecutive years on the "Nice" list.
There there are the requests for visiting with me or the reindeer on Christmas Eve. There are so many children that want me to wake them up so they can visit. I would love nothing more than to be able to do that but we are on such a tight schedule, its just not possible. And even if I had the time, I don't think I would risk it. In the early days, when I didn't have so many houses to visit, I would occasionally honor a request to visit and introduce the reindeer. Inevitably though, someone's dog or cat would go into "attack mode" as soon as the reindeer came in the house. It's understandable.... its a natural behaviour for the dog. But the reindeer would get spooked. And on occasion, I'd have a mess to clean-up before I left. Good thing I keep a "pooper-scooper" in the sleigh. Its just not worth all the stained carpets even if I could keep schedule.
Speaking of animals... Live animals are another controversial issue. We debate our ability to deliver live animals every year. Each year we re-visit various governmental policies on the import/export of live animals. Inevitably, the topic leads to a heated debate over whether or not we should even be in the business of fulfilling Christmas wishes for live animals. We keep the option open every year... working with the UN and individual nations to negotiate special considerations for our Christmas delivery of live animals... however, more years than not, we have chosen to not fulfill Christmas requests for live animals. As you can imagine, it is a passionate debate with more than one facet to the sides that are taken. While we all feel strongly about making the kids happy, there are some that believe that should trump all other considerations. There is a camp, represented by Jolly, our Chief Marketing Officer, that believes that the risk of the animals falling sick and/or passing away shortly after delivery only serves to hurt our brand. There is yet another camp, predictably led by Ollie, our VP of Logistics, that simply believes the live animal logistics are so complex - not to mention expensive - that it jeopardizes our ability to fulfill our commitments on other deliveries. Ollie definitely has a point... almost 60% of the qualifying "nice" list kids placed live animal requests of some type last year. And the requests are for a wide range of animals that require vastly different types of care. Of the ones that asked for live animals last year, 34% wanted a horse or pony. 27% wanted a dog. 14% wanted a snake. 13% wanted a cat. 3% wanted a bird of some type. 5% wanted to keep one of the reindeer. The remaining 4% wanted some other type of animal ranging from goldfish to crocidiles. Of course, even in the years when we decide to tackle the challenge of delivering live animals and we clear all of the various governmental hurdles, we still require written parental consent. And we have always denied requests for animals that posed a risk such as poisonous snakes or large predatory animals. In short, even in the best case years, it remains very unlikely a child will receive a live animal. In 2008, we are going to follow the same practices & policies as last year: allowing live animals where it is legal and where we have written parental consent. Given those considerations, Sprite, head of Procurement, believes we'll deliver approximately 24,000 small animals and 4,800 large animals worldwide this year, up slightly from last year and in line with 2006 numbers. It's a small number as far as a percentage but we are extremely limited by the sheer number of parents that refuse to grant permission.
And finally, there is the issue of "Open Letters" posted on the internet in places such as MySpace and Facebook as well as in the media. Despite the help of my very capable friends at Google (and Yahoo!), I can not guarantee that I will see your open letter. The North Pole Inc. I.T. team crawls sites during this time of year for Open Letters and produces a summary of links for me. But even with that help, our research indicates that there is still a high likelihood of your open letter being missed. So your best bet is to send me a direct correspondence. Of course, I have noticed that most people send me direct correspondence via emails or handwritten letter for their requests but then use the open letter format to file complaints. Still, I try to read and respond to them all regardless of the spirit.
I hope this has helped to set a few expectations for this upcoming Christmas Eve. I also hope you are not too disappointed. Santa definitely wants to spread Joy throughout the world this Christmas season, so if these restrictions create an issue for you, let's talk. I'm sure there are some very creative ways you can make this your best Christmas ever... And it probably starts with trying to make this the best Christmas ever for someone else!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
What a day! We executed a "dry run" of the Christmas Eve operation. A dry run is essentially a full scale simulation designed to uncover any unknown problems or risks. Of course we have to make a lot of assumptions about major variables such as the weather, current status of the naughty/nice list, etc.; however, it is generally effective in identifying areas where we need further work.
We started last night at midnight North Pole Time, just like we will do on Christmas Eve. The teams have the sleigh ready to go, I get a de-briefing on the flight plan & any anticipated problem areas, and then its off we go. For purposes of the dry-run, I only made 10 stops on each continent but I did stop at every replenishment station. At the replenishment stations, the crews were in place and went through a full loading of the sleigh as well as rest & 're-fueling' of the reindeer.
Overall, things went very well. This continues to shape up as one of the best Christmas seasons we have had. There is no reason to believe that this isn't going to be a record Christmas. The reindeer are in great shape. I felt pretty good... though I did twist an ankle going down a chimney in Holland. Don't worry about the ankle, kids.... Jingle was with me and he immediately wrapped & iced it (we keep a fully stocked first aid kit in the sleigh at all times... you should do the same with your vehicle). As I type this, I have my leg elevated and ice on the ankle. Between that and the ibuprofren, the swelling is minimal. I anticipate I'll be up and ready to go for a run tomorrow morning despite Mrs. Claus continual pleas for me to not do so. I gotta get my run in though or it just messes up my entire day. My morning run is a great chance for me to organize my thoughts for the day and I feel much more prepared... and hence less stressed... walking into my first meeting of the day.
Oh.... I did try some new coffee today that I meant to tell you about. I still love my Starbucks Christmas Blend, as well as Egg Nog Lattes, but I was given a gift of coffee and I really liked it. You may get a kick out of this but it is actually "Elvis Coffee".... and I had the "Santa Baby Blend". Who knew? It was good to get a little variety in my holiday coffee traditions.
But for now, I'm going to pour a big glass of egg nog and settle in by the fire with my laptop and catch up on emails. I hope the rest of you can stay warm and stay safe!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I have shared this story of my "First" Christmas before but I have had several requests in my email inbox to repeat it again this year. I hope you enjoy it. Merry Christmas! - Love, Santa.
The first Christmas I remember was when I was 3 years old. I lived with my father and mother near the small village of Drobak. My father was an exiled king. Before I was born, he had ruled a kingdom that stretches across much of what is now Germany. Soon after my mother became pregnant with me, my father's younger brother, who had been the next in line for the throne, conspired with a neighboring king to overthrow my father. Fearing for the life of my mother and me, my father fled to Norway. Though my father remained extremely wealthy, having escaped with much of the family treasures, we lived like paupers so as not to draw attention to ourselves. Our house was just outside the Village. My father had built it with his own hands. It was probably the first thing he had ever built. It was small, drafty, and almost perptually dark as it sat under the deep cover of the forest... the only warmth coming from a stone fireplace and the only light from that fire and the candles my mother had made. Yet when we were all there together, it somehow seemed to glow with warmth. Back then, there was no Santa Claus (obviously!) to bring presents, no Christmas parades, no Christmas parties, no Sales at the mall, no TV Holiday Specials, no Christmas carols, nor gift giving. There were certainly no Christmas lights. In fact, the only semblance of a decoration for most families at that time was a small tree. Traditionally, a small tree was cut each year and brought inside on Christmas Eve to be decorated by the family. As you can tell, our Christmases were pretty "bare" by today's standards. From that 'first' Christmas, aged 3, I remember getting in the sleigh right after we finished decorating our tree on Christmas Eve. We traveled several kilometers through the woods to the closest church. I remember my father crying - a small tear running down his cheek - as the priest told the story of how God had sent His only Son to the world - not as a prince but as a poor baby sleeping in rags in a stable - in order to save the very people that no longer believed in God. After the service, he knelt and prayed for the longest time. I do not know until this day what he prayed but as I now look back, I can imagine that he gave thanks and prayed that he would have the strength to be an example of that kind of love. It was dark by the time we started our trip back home. We stopped several times. Each time my father would jump out of his seat, pull something from the sleigh, and bound through the snow towards a nearby cabin. As I grew older, and after many years of the same stops, I figured out that my father was leaving small bags of gold coins at the doors of those most needy. The next morning, the residents would wake up to find the coins at their doorstep and their quality of life changed forever. Never again would they wonder where the next meal would come. No one ever expected it to be my father and that was exactly how he wanted it. I fell quickly asleep once we returned home. As I would every Christmas after that until I moved out, I awoke to the sounds of people chattering excitedly about Christmas morning. The smell of pancakes and hot cider permeated the air. Most of the villagers were gathering at our house. We didn't have much space, but somehow, almost everyone squeezed into that small, 1-room home for a delicious Christmas morning breakfast that my mom had stayed up all night to prepare. She did not want anyone to be alone on Christmas Day. She told me that morning that she believed Christmas was a day of Hope, intended to be spent rejoicing with friends and family rather than focusing on every day trials. I will never forget that Christmas, though I was merely 3 years old. At the time I did not know it, but this was our annual Christmas tradition. My father never stopped weeping at the Christmas story. And he never stopped giving anonymously to those in need. And my mother never stopped hosting the village in our home on Christmas Day. As I grow older, I realize that my parents lived life, and approached every decision, with that same spirit of Christmas. The lessons they have taught me, will never leave me. I only pray to set the same example of selfless giving that my father & mother set before me. Merry Christmas, all!
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
I woke up ready to go this morning. The Jingle Bell 5K was top of mind! I actually woke up, turned over to look at the clock, and realized that it was 3 minutes until the alarm was scheduled to sound. I definitely was feeling good by the time I took a warm shower, ate a bananna, downed 4 glasses of water, and 2 cups of Christmas Blend coffee. I have been training for several weeks for the race and I was already dreaming about setting a PR as I drank my coffee. It was even more exciting because my entire direct report team was running the race. And my real motivation.... I wanted to beat Jangle. I had not yet been able to beat Jangle in a race, even though in training, I felt I could keep up with him.
At race time, it was snowing but no wind. I love running in the snow, which is a good thing when you live at the North Pole. And sure enough, everyone from my team was there. 'Feeling good', I thought to myself as I lined up next to Jangle. Neither one of us spoke about the competition between us, but trust me, it was palpable. When the bell rang to start the race, we both sprinted off the starting line and carried an insane pace for the first 800m. I knew neither of us could carry that pace the entire 5K, but I wasn't going to be the first to back off. Jangle was probably thinking the same thing, but thankfully before one of us keeled over, he did finally back off the pace. I slowed but made sure my shoulders were just ahead of him. I passed on water, oranges, and energy gels at all of the aid stations... I couldn't afford to lose the precious seconds it would take to reach for and consume the water.
By the time we got to the 3K mark, I was still on pace for a PR, but I was breathing hard & my legs were heavy. I was doubting my ability to stay on a PR pace... it would take a PR to beat Jangle. And sure enough, Jangle took off at the 3K mark. I decided to let him go. And he did. Around the corner he disappeared. I just focused on sticking to pace. Until I rounded another corner with the final 400m to go. There was Jangle. He was shutting down... paying the price for his early push to the finish. I could see I had a chance to catch him. I kicked it in. I told myself that it was the equivalent of only one lap around the track and that I could gut it out. As Jangle grew closer and it was clear I was going to overtake him with about 50m to go, the energy surged. I blew past Jangle and about 15 other runners that were finishing their race. Mrs. Claus said the smile across my face when I crossed the finish line was the biggest she had seen in 10 years. The volunteers placed the ginger bread medal around my neck and I sat down. Every ounce of energy and strength had been sapped but I felt great. Jangle came over and gave me a big hug. I don't think anyone was happier for me than he was, despite the fact that he really wanted to beat me yet again.
Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to enjoy my personal victory (to be clear, I did not win overall, but I consider setting a personal record and beating Jangle for the first time a victory). It was immediately back to work. When I stood up to go home and shower before starting the day, my muscles had already stiffened. My calves began to cramp. My thighs felt as though someone had hit me with a baseball bat. I knew at that instant, it was going to be a long, painful day. And it was. But it was worth it.
It was a crazy day as, ironically, Jangle and I had to spend much of the day addressing an ugly, and very false, rumor that we had been asking each of the G8 nations for bail out money. The fact is that we don't need a bail out. We are having to watch our costs but thanks to our centuries long philosophy of only paying cash, we are in good shape. We have no debt and large cash reserves. Regardless, we had to go on the global media blitz to counter the rumor.
I returned here to have a very late lunch with Mrs. Claus. And now I have to rush off to Tokyo to have Saturday morning brunch (it's already Saturday there) with Ninentendo executives. There's a full evening schedule after that before I can finally settle in. At this point, I may just sleep in the hot tub tonight!
Have a good evening, all!
Friday, December 12, 2008
It was another busy week as we continue to ramp-up our manufacturing operations to peak levels, begin to pre-position inventory at our replenishment centers, update the naughty & nice lists, and continue developing & fine-tuning our flight pattern options for Christmas Eve. As we finalize preparations this week, I had to spend much of my time dealing with issues in addition to making my regularly scheduled appearances around the world.
My "fire-fighting" took me to Beijing in order to negotiate airspace clearance for Christmas Eve, to the US to negotiate with the world's leading battery producer for everything they have left in stock (yes, we're going to be short again this year!), and to the Brussels to resolve what I think was a silly dispute revolving around some obscure clause in the North Pole-EU free trade agreement.
I also spent a lot of time in meetings reviewing every kind of analysis you can imagine. There were at least 15 different "naughty & nice" list scenarios, 7 different weather scenarios, 2 different political scenarios, and all overlaid with various flight plan & replenishment alternatives. My head hurts just thinking about it.
Well... I better get to bed. Tomorrow morning is the Jingle Bell 5K that I have been training for the past few weeks. I want to make sure I run my best race. I'll make sure I post my results sometime tomorrow morning. Good night, all!
The Christmas Spirit is magical. Amazing things happen during the Christmas season not because of "magic" but because so many of dare to believe. Because we re-examine what it means to love all. Because we fondly remember Christmases past. Because we surround ourselves with loved ones. Because we immerse ourselves in the memories of those that have gone on before us. Because we dream about the future. Because we allow our perspective on life, our purpose here, to be reset in the warm glowing light of THE Christmas story. When enough of us do all this, that creates the "magic".
So start here. I invite you to share your Christmas wishes... no matter how spectacular or how grand... with all of us. You can publish your Christmas Wish by clicking here or by following the "Make A Christmas Wish!" link in the right-hand column.
I hope to see your wish soon!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
For me, Christmas is absolutely the happiest time of the year. I would guess that most everyone believes that it should be.... certainly everything in pop culture indicates that it is. But the fact is, for many people, it is a time of misery. Many are lonely. Some mourn the loss of loved ones every Holiday season. Others are tired. Or in debt. Or stressed. Or simply fed up with it all.
We get caught up in traditions & expectations, in obligatory gift giving, and in the frenetic pace of the season. Do you think this is how God intended Christmas to be when He sent His Son to earth? Do you think this is how he wants us to celebrate the birth of Christ?
This Christmas, can you take a moment to step back and focus on what the season is really about? Can you "re-enter" the Christmas story? I challenge you to be a part of giving to those who need it most, to spend time in genuine worship, and to approach everyone with love. If you can do that, I guarantee you that this will be your best Christmas ever!
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Whew. I am exhausted. It feels like I was everywhere. In fact, I did go around the world 3 times in the last 48 hours, making appearances in city squares, parades, tree lightings, shopping centers, and sporting events (football matches, American football games, hockey matches, and basketball games). At least the reindeer got a break.... only two joined me on most trips.... so they are still well-rested.
I was able to run both Saturday and Sunday. I am training for the Jingle Bell 5K on Saturday. What a fun run! All of the finishers get medals made out of ginger bread... they're edible. And I might add, quite tasty when dipped in a cup of Egg Nog or Christmas Blend coffee. I run the race almost every year, but this year, Mrs. Claus and my entire senior staff have all committed to run the race with me. I've been training for it the last three months... I really want to see if I can finish ahead of Jangle. He has beaten me every year, usually by about a minute, but I have been getting closer each time. I think this may be my year.
I have been feeling particularly well today. Nothing specific.... I just seem to have a little less energy. I've cancelled our end-of-day staff meeting and my facility tour that were both scheduled for tonight so I can get to bed early. I think a little rest and I'll be back to 100% soon. Its amazing how the excitement of Christmas has kept me going though today. It was jus that little extra shot of adrenaline that I needed. But for now, I'm going to turn in and get some rest. I'll be back at it tomorrow.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
As you have no doubt read in my blog before, Blitzen saved my life. He found me on the verge of freezing to death after I had been caught in a major snowstorm, deep in the forest, and in the middle of the night. That was my first encounter with a talking and flying reindeer. Before that fateful night, I had believed such things to be the superstitions of old men and creatures of fairy tales. But Blitzen was real. And he opened up a whole new world for Mrs. Claus and I.
Blitzen returned me that night to Mrs. Claus. Later he told me that he didn't think I would make it through the night. He stayed with us in our home in Drobak, helping Mrs. Claus nurse me back to health. By mid-afternoon the following day, thanks in large part to Blitzen, I was beginning to feel myself again. I tried to re-pay Blitzen but he would have none of it. He said that my recovery was a priceless reward for him. But I did make him promise to stay in touch.... I knew he would be a life long friend. Blitzen did stay in touch. Over the course of the following year, he dropped by once a week to visit with us. He accompanied me on my commutes to and from Oslo. We became close friends.
I knew that if there was one talking and flying reindeer, there would certainly be more. But I never asked Blitzen. I understood his need to remain discrete about his abilities. I wanted to respect his privacy. So it was almost a full year later before he ever mentioned anything about his friends or family. And it was another few months before he finally introduced Mrs. Claus and I to all of the other reindeer. What a treat that was!
And eventually, several years later, I was able to re-pay Blitzen for saving my life. The reindeer were being threatened by new development as Oslo expanded and logging increased. Once Mrs. Claus & I became aware of the situation, we promptly used some of my inheritance to buy several hundred square kilometers of land in the northern most part of Norway so the reindeer could live safely & peacefully. That purchase was the first parcel of what is now the full North Pole territory. Mrs. Claus and I fell in love with the land and built our own cabin that we used as a weekend retreat from the shops in Drobak and Oslo. It allowed us to visit regularly with the reindeer.
It was during these weekend visits that we first noticed what we thought to be young children milling about amongst the herds of reindeer. Whenever I would go out to check on the children... concerned because no people lived within a hundred kilometers of our property borders... they would disappear quickly into the woods. The reindeer all assured me that I must have been hallucinating. This happened several weekends in a row. If Mrs. Claus had not also seen the children, I surely would have thought I was going mad. As winter set in, we did not see the children again. By spring, I thought no more about them. But Blitzen, my trusted friend, had not forgotten about the children...
Blitzen knew about my family fortune. And more importantly he knew about my desire to share my good fortune with the less-fortunate. He knew about how I followed my father's tradition of anonymously leaving small bags of gold coins on doorsteps on Christmas Eve. He knew that I had expanded the tradition to secretly pay-off debts of those that had suffered misfortune and to leave some of my hand-crafted toys with their children. I had shared with him how I wished I could extend my reach beyond the Drobak & Oslo areas to help the many others across Scandinavia. And that is why that following Christmas season, on the verge of winter, he told me about the elves.
The elves are human despite what many people may think given their small stature and the rumors of their magical powers (By the way, they aren't anymore magical than you are... it is the stuff of urban myths). They are a race descended originally from the same Siberian-based tribe as the eskimo people. A thousand years earlier, they had migrated north, deep into the Arctic Circle, before turning west and southward and settling in the forests of present-day Norway & Sweden. Living in the forest, they quickly became skilled craftsmen capable of making virtually anything from the timber they cut to make their homes, fuel their fires, and craft their tools. They adopted the reindeer and the reindeer, in turn, adopted them. They forged a deep and critical partnership. It is likely without each other, neither would have survived some of the winters they were forced to endure. For years they were a lost and forgotten tribe altogether; however, a hundred or so years before Mrs. Claus and I built our cabin in this remote land, a missionary... hopelessly lost and on the verge of starvation... stumbled upon the elf village. They nursed the missionary back to health. During his stay, he shared his faith and after hearing the Good News for the first time, the elves were so excited that they immediately broke into celebration. A feast was prepared, music played, elves danced & sang, and gifts were exchanged as was the tradition for all elf celebrations. The missionary told them that it reminded him of how Jesus' birthday was celebrated in other parts of Europe and the Middle East. Hearing this, the tribal elders declared that the birth of Christ would be celebrated in such manner every year. The missionary, fully recovered, set back on his quest and eventually found his way to Oslo. He shared the story of the elves but no one believed him, discounting it as the hallucinations of a starving man. The elves remained forgotten for another hundred years... until Blitzen introduced me to them.
Blitzen knew the elf traditions of celebrating the birth of Christ. He knew about my Christmas Eve traditions. And he knew that with the help of the elves and the other reindeer, I could realize my desire to help even more people. That first Christmas together with the elves, Mrs. Claus & I celebrated with the elves who hosted us in their village. We shared in their traditions. I shared my vision with the tribal elders. And that very Christmas night, we all - the reindeer, the elves, and I - made a commitment to deliver gifts - money, food, tools, & toys - to the deserving and less fortunate people of Norway the following Christmas Eve. From there, the tradition grew....
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
I am re-telling this story that I first shared in December of 2005 partly because I have had a number of requests to do so, but primarily as background for the story I intend to share with you on Thursday. On Thursday, I intend to tell you about how Mrs. Claus & I met the elves. I hope you'll be excited to check back in on Thursday after reading today's re-telling of how I met Blitzen.
The first flying reindeer I ever met was Blitzen. It was years ago. It was well before I ever knew reindeer could fly, or knew of elves, or built the North Pole Village.
I was a humble toy-maker in the town I was born - Drobak, Norway. A few years earlier I had met Mrs. Claus, we married, and shortly after opened a toy shop. Our business was starting to take off and I had just expanded into the markets of Oslo. It was a long trip by sleigh in the winter months. I would fill my sleigh with a week's worth of goods so that once I made the trip, I could stay for a full week before returning back along the seldom travelled trails. It was on my trip back late one night in the dead of winter. Even though it wasn't particularly wise to travel the forest alone at night, I was rushing back to be home in time for Mrs. Claus' birthday the next day. I was hoping to arrive just before dawn so I could be there when she woke up. The toy sales had been particularly brisk and I had used the money to buy Mrs. Claus an emerald drop that I had noticed her secretly (or at least, she thought it was secret) admiring in the window on all of our trips to Oslo. As I headed out of town, I noticed the wind picking up and snow beginning to fall. An hour or so outside of town, the storm had arrived. I was unable to see beyond the front of the sled and was forced to stop. It was obvious pretty quickly that I was not prepared. My only shelter was a blanket I huddled under, curled up in the floor of the sleigh. I could feel the life seeping out from me as the cold set in. After a few minutes, I was no longer cold but I could feel my eyelids getting heavier. Deep down, I knew I was going to die yet my only thoughts were about taking a nap. I don't know to this day if it was minutes or hours later... but I suddenly felt an extremely cold blast on my face as the blanket was pulled back. A warm nose brushed against my face. I was certain I was hallucinating... surely I wasn't talking to a reindeer. Surely he wasn't offering to fly me home. Even the next morning, when I woke up in my own bed back in Drobak, I thought for sure it was a dream. Or it was a hallucination. But it wasn't. It was Blitzen.
After that day, Mrs Claus and I both grew very close to Blitzen. Over time, he trusted us enough to introduce us to the other flying reindeer that lived in the woods of Norway. He was also the one who introduced us to the elfs and their tradition of selfless gift giving. Without Blitzen, it is conceivable that their never would have been a Santa Claus.
To this day, Blitzen remains my lead reindeer. Rudolph may be the most famous of all.... and we love him like we do every one of the reindeer... and he is in front of the team on Christmas Eve but Blitzen is my favorite. Even at his age, he remains the fastest, smartest, and most cheerful of the reindeer.
Monday, December 01, 2008
Happy December 1st!
My schedule was a little lighter today. Mondays are always easier as there are typically no parade or media appearances on Mondays and there are significantly fewer mall appearances. As a result, I can spend more time here at the North Pole. I used the time today to conduct 1x1 meetings with all of my senior staff. Today's focus was on reviewing and updating their annual individual and team performance goals. We run our performance management year from February 1 to January 31st. Obviously, we have performance discussions through out the year; however, there are 4 formal review periods: Goal Setting in February, Mid-Year Reviews at the end of the summer (Aug-Sept timeframe), Pre-Christmas Review at the first of December, and the year-end review in late January/early February. The pre-Christmas Reviews that I conducted today are just to ensure that we are fully aligned and prepared for the most critical portion of our year leading up to the Christmas Eve operation. I am happy to say that everyone is performing very well. I could not be more proud of my team. I am extremely confident this is going to be a great Christmas!
I did have a couple of tree lightings though, including the North Pole Christmas Tree Lighting! What fun it was! The best thing about the North Pole Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony is that Mrs. Claus gets the lighting honors. I can just be myself and enjoy the ceremony as a participant. It was quite the event.... of course, as usual, the thing I remember most is the food.... Hot chocolate, roasted chestnuts, hot apple cider, ginger bread cookies, etc. There were strolling carolers prior to the start of the ceremony. Beyonce opened with a few modern Christmas carols. She was followed by Michael W. Smith, who sang more traditional carols such as Hark The Herald Angels and Silent Night. It was also a great chance to catch-up with old friends that I had not had the opportunity to see since they had returned last week. Overall, it was a lot of fun.
Mrs. Claus is calling me to join her for a late night snack so I better get going. It was a good day! I hope you are enjoying this Christmas season as much as I am.