In Defense of Santa Claus

I’m a Christmas geek. I won’t listen to the music or put up decorations until the first day of Advent or the first of December (whichever comes first), but it haunts my subconscious all year long, popping up in dreams and doodles in the middle of May or the heat of August.

To me, it is more than a holiday. It’s even more than a holy day. It is mythic and universal and deeper than either the shopping malls or my Catholic religion can make it. I want to share it with everyone, whatever their own beliefs or traditions or financial status: Christmas is about hope! It’s about humanity gathering together to keep each other warm as they cheer on the arrival of the sun! It’s about light coming to burn away darkness, both literally and figuratively! It speaks to the deepest longings of our souls.

I say you can celebrate or not celebrate this time of year however much or little you want to, in whatever way you like, as long as you’re happy and you’re not purposely making anyone else unhappy (there are of course people who won’t be happy no matter what you do: they don’t count). And yet I still get up in arms about people who do it wrong.

Continue reading In Defense of Santa Claus

Christmas Movies You Don’t Want to Miss

All Images: Amazon.com

I moved from England to Maine in 2003. During this time, as I discovered many new family traditions, I came to the realization that the movie/Christmas special traditions of this country were vastly different from what I’d grown up with. GeekMom Nicole’s post earlier this month reminded me of this: all of the specials that she wrote about were ones I had never heard of prior to 2003.  It took me years to love Ralphie…and even longer to love Rudolph. I don’t think I have yet managed to convince an American friend or family member of how wonderful my own Christmas specials are. So here are a few of the specials that I grew up with in England. They aren’t all English but they aren’t at all commonplace over here (from what I have seen).

1. Santa Claus: The MovieThis is the Father Christmas I saw in my mind as a child. When you talk about Christmas, this is the face that I see in that red suit. John Lithgow plays an evil toymaker to Dudley Moore’s optimistic elf. We follow the life of Santa in the 80s and watch a ragamuffin child and little rich girl help Dudley’s elf, Patch, learn what it truly means to be loved by Santa. The music sticks with me till April.

2. The Christmas Toy. Pretty much Jim Henson’s take on Toy Story, well before Pixar was around. What happens when you leave the room and your toys come to life? What happens when one of them believes that he will get to be unwrapped every Christmas morning. This show has some heavy moments in it (for instance, the toys “die” if they are seen out of place), but this is one I have already been watching with my two-year-old.

3. Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman. Having seen what toys who come to life do, this shows us what snowmen who come to life do. No dialogue from anyone, not even John Goodman, just music. If you have ever heard “Walking in the Air” and wondered why it’s always around, this is the source. It’s a beautifully quiet reflection for Christmas.

One of the things that I always looked forward to in December was getting the two-week edition of the Radio Times, Britain’s version of TV Guide. Usually published weekly, the two-week special encapsulates both Christmas and New Year’s, thus giving you the chance to schedule all of your holiday-time viewing beforehand. My dad still sends me a copy every year, though I can’t actually watch any of the shows. Still, I like knowing whether Zulu will be airing again on Christmas day, and I also like to be reminded to watch the Queen’s annual Christmas address. This year’s edition has me wishing for Gillian Anderson in Great Expectations  and Christopher Eccleston in The Borrowers. I’ll have to settle, though, for ABC’s “25 days of Christmas” and get my Heat Miser fix on Christmas Eve.

The 5 Best Christmas Specials, Ever

“Fra-gi-le” Image: Nicole Wakelin

I love all the classic holiday stuff you see on television each December. Even though I have most of my favorites on DVD there’s something special about seeing them when they’re actually being aired. It doesn’t count if you record them or stream them later. I’m talking about the random channel surfing that suddenly turns up one of your favorites, as if the network aired it just for you. I tend to obsess over the things that make me happy and one of my biggest obsessions is Christmas specials.

Back when I was a kid, in the days before you could record stuff and watch it at your leisure, when a Christmas special aired the whole school would be talking about it for days. The news travelled like wildfire, so if you hadn’t managed to see it in the TV listings or catch a commercial, by the time snacktime rolled around at least a dozen of your friends had told you what was on that night.

Then there was the interminable wait. Seven o’clock seemed to be the time of choice and I swear the minutes were actually longer on those days. I’d get in my pajamas, grab a blanket and possibly a stuffed animal and curl up in front of the TV just waiting for the little pre-special montage that notified you there was, in fact, a special about to air. Some of these shows stuck with me so much so that to this day I can recite half the lines. So, in honor of all things Christmas, here’s a list of my favorite childhood specials that still hold a place in my heart today.

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, Image: Amazon

5. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

There isn’t a kid who celebrates Christmas who hasn’t looked out the window and imagined seeing a faint red dot in the sky on Christmas Eve. And if you saw that little red dot in the sky, the image that came to mind was likely of Rudolph as he was in the Rankin/Bass stop motion animation special that first aired way back in 1964. But more than the story of Rudolph and how the other reindeer were mean until he saved the day, this special introduced us to the Island of Misfit Toys. In fact, it’s all the other characters from this one that make me love it. An abominable snowman named Bumble, a prospector named Ukon Corneilus and little Hermey, the elf that just wants to be a dentist. The supporting cast nearly out shines the lead’s nose.

Frosty the Snowman, Image: Amazon

4. Frosty the Snowman

Every single year I built a snowman. Every. Single. Year. And that darn thing never came to life no matter how many different kinds of hats and scarves I gave him. But, it was okay, because I still had my Frosty movie to keep my hopes alive and show me what might happen if I persevered and kept building happy little snowmen across my lawn. Since 1969, the Rankin/Bass animated version of this classic has been keeping kids hopes alive and bringing them to tears. Come on, who didn’t cry when that stupid Profesor Hinkle trapped poor Frosty in that greenhouse? I hate that guy.

Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town, Image:Amazon

3. Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town

Another stop-motion animation classic from Rankin/Bass that debuted in 1970, this one shows us how Santa got his start as a little orphan baby taken in my elves. I mean, how cool is that? Can you imagine growing up with elves? Meanwhile, Mayor Burgermeister Meisterburger is making the children in the town of Sombertown miserable by outlawing toys. Yeah, he’s one evil dude but he does have the best villain name in the history of forever. I always imagine the creators of this one were super hungry when they came up with that one. Despite the coolness of his name, the Mayor fails and eventually good ole Santa Claus delivers toys to the children of Sombertown and a legend is born.

The Year Without a Santa Claus, Image: Amazon

2. The Year Without a Santa Claus

This 1974 movie has my all-time favorite songs sung by my all-time favorite stop motion animation characters. Heat Miser and Snow Miser perform the best sing and dance-off in history to determine who’s the better brother. The rest of this movie centers around trying to save Christmas when Santa is a bit under the weather, but these guys steal the show. Their crazy hair, mini-me minions, and ragtime dance sequence make them the most memorable stop motion characters ever. Ever. I love those guys.

A Christmas Story, Image: Amazon

1. A Christmas Story

Although it didn’t make it’s debut until 1983, this has become the grandaddy of all Christmas movies. It doesn’t matter that it’s set way back in the late 30’s, this movie captures the essence of being a kid in any era. From the iconic leg lamp (the ornament is on my tree) to the bullies, the triple-dog dare to the ridiculous bunny outfit, every single one of us can relate to little Ralphie. You may never have longed for a Red Ryder BB Gun, but we all had an “it” toy that we were dying to see on Christmas morning. And really, how can you not like a movie where a kid gets his tongue stuck to a flagpole on a dare?

That’s my list. These are the movies that I watch every year and sing along with like I’m a seven-year-old up past her bedtime. There are so many good ones out there, though, that I’m sure there are a few that didn’t make my list that are tops on yours. Tell me, what did I miss?

Portable North Pole’s Free, Personalized Video From Santa

A screen shot from my daughter's video (Image: Mandy Horetski)

I think the magic of believing in Santa Claus is one of the best things about Christmas. My daughter is three this year so she is starting to understand and believe in Santa. So she was really excited when I told her we had a video from Santa Claus just for her.

Portable North Pole (or PNP) is offering free videos from Santa that will come straight to your email. You are asked some questions and given the opportunity to upload photos that will appear in Santa’s book.

My daughter was so thrilled to get a video from Santa and she was so excited to see her picture in Santa’s book. It doesn’t take a lot of time but it brought some more magic for my daughter’s Christmas. I would recommend making this free video for anyone who wants to send a little Christmas magic.

A Holiday iPhone App That Makes You Happy with Hand-Sewn Santa Hats

Santa Hats
Photo courtesy of Esa Helttula

One thing we may think of when we think of Finland in winter is a festive holiday season. After all, they have reindeer there. And a late contribution to this holiday season is an adorable app that helps you make your own Santa hat! Now your whole family can have a matching set!

Santa Hat App
Photo courtesy of Esa Helttula

The Santa Hat Sewing app steps you through each part of making the hat, from what equipment and materials you need, to measuring your head to create your hat, to cutting the fabric, and finally sewing it all together. There is much more to this app than meets the eye, however. It takes your head measurement and creates a custom pattern just for you. It has some clever animation built in, and cute mouse drawings.

You do have to be good at following directions to get the hat the right size, but the app considers that and even allows you to mark off each step as you go, so you don’t lose your place. By following the detailed, step-by-step directions, you will learn how to design your own patterns and sew your own hats. Never again will sewing be intimidating to you. Children can do this. Adults can do this. Families can do this together. Your kids will enjoy this math lesson. They’ll learn sewing skills, material science, math and geometry, and get the satisfaction of creating something fun and silly all on their own.

Here’s some more information from the app store:

You might’ve thought that sewing was out of your reach. You might’ve liked the idea of sewing but never knew how.

We have a fun FREE app that will teach you how, just in time for the holiday season. Learn how to sew a Santa hat with your hands, right before your eyes. You’ll have a great time and it’ll be easy. You’ll wish that you learnt this ages ago.

Handmade with love and care from the snowy forests of Finland, this lovely little app gives you a custom pattern, based on your own measurements. It’ll be a perfect fit for your head, or your favourite reindeer’s head. We try our best to be helpful, with illustrations for each step. The best part is that you don’t even need any sewing experience. It’s perfect for kids as well as adults.

In the spirit of goodwill during this holiday season, we’d like to give you our Santa Hat Sewing app for the price of free.

No ads, no upgrades to an in-app purchase to get extra functionality. Everything you need in all wrapped up with love and we also promise to keep it that way.

So, go forth and choose your own Santa hat fabric (many fabric stores are having marvelous sales right now), and adorn it with fake white fur, or bells, or whatever makes you jolly.

The accompanying website also has some additional instructions to turn your creation into an Elf hat, plus it includes some indoor games using the hats you’ve made. (They also make some very simple but expertly done math apps for kids.) Grab the Santa Hat Sewing app before Christmas so your family has appropriate protective headgear. It’s free in the iTunes store!

If you do download the free app and make hats for your family, please upload pictures to the GeekMom Flickr pool and let us know in the comments!

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The Science of Santa: Doubts Debunked

Santa Claus Debunking Myths

Naysayers of the existence of Santa have been rather vocal in years past. They come armed with all sorts of defenses as to why a single man in a red suit could never accomplish all he claims to do each and every Christmas Eve. Everything from the toys to the sleigh to the reindeer to timing are subject to attack. I say that there are two sides to every story. So I am here to attempt to debunk the many false claims that spew from the mouths of the doubters.

Claim: Santa’s sleigh could never hold all of those gifts.
Explanation: Throughout the evolution of Santa’s sleigh there have been many modifications made to improve its structural integrity. The current model employs state of the art materials that provide a lighter frame with the strength to carry even more toys than in years past. Engineers working in the NPPL (North Pole Propulsion Laboratory) are also contractors with the U.S. Department of Defense. This allows for open sharing of design and material improvements. It is rumored that the concept for the Air Force’s new F-22A Raptor comes from a recent sleigh prototype.

Claim: Santa could never make all those toys in just a year’s time.

Explanation: The Industrial Revolution and the introduction of interchangeable parts into manufacturing allowed for an increase in productivity at the North Pole. As the global population grew over the course of the next several centuries, so too did Santa’s labor force. Recruiting from some of the best universities and corporations across the planet, Santa also contracted with resource management specialists and efficiency analysts to make his organization run more smoothly than ever. Santa’s board of directors, which consists of CEOs and executives from companies like Apple, Mattel, and Science Museum Oklahoma, meets annually to approve new techniques in manufacturing and design.

Claim: Santa does not have enough time to visit all those homes in one night.

Explanation: To begin with Santa has 31 hours of Christmas Eve to work with thanks to time zones and the rotation of the earth as he generally travels East to West from his home in Northern Finland. It is also generally accepted that he does not visit children of devout Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim families except under special circumstances (although this has fact has not been verified. Researchers are still investigating this claim). As the number of homes visited each Christmas began to grow beyond a manageable number, Santa needed help. He turned to the top scientists of the day to solve this problem. In 1472 Leonardo da Vinci developed Santa’s first flying sleigh. Until this point he had always followed a land route across Siberia and into Asia and then doubling back through South Asia into Europe. Santa’s expansion into the New World came with the assistance of English Chemist and Physicist Michael Faraday. Faraday’s work in magnetism provided additions to the sleigh that allowed it to travel much further and much faster than ever before. The final improvements to Santa’s technological arsenal came in the late 1940’s as a team, directed by Albert Einstein, developed a gravity drive that is used to fold space-time and allow Saint Nick to simply step through a gateway into the location of his choosing. This speeds up the gift distribution process and takes a large amount of stress off of the herd of reindeer traditionally tasked with tens of thousands of miles of travel.

Photo Used With Permission from www.singingsantaclaus.com.

Claim: Santa could never fit down a chimney. What about all the homes without chimneys?
Explanation: Santa actually hasn’t used a chimney since December 24th, 1785. On an especially cold Christmas Eve in North Hampton, England, Wilbur and Betty Maupin forgot to extinguish the flames in their fireplace before bed and Santa narrowly missed suffering painful burns to his backside. This experience prompted Santa and his legal team to lobby for the Open Door Act (passed later in the newly formed United States of America as the Santa Freedom Bill). This act, later adopted by the United Nations through a unanimous vote, provides that all lock manufacturers produce locks that can be opened by a series of skeleton, or master, keys.  The exact number of skeleton key models is unknown and Santa’s legal department is pretty tight-lipped on this information. Experts assume that Santa still must carry right around one hundred keys, but as with electronics and DVDs, it is assumed the skeleton keys tend to be the same in given regions. This saves him from making a dangerous descent down chimneys across the globe and allows for a safer gift giving experience.

Many thanks to an historian by the name of Bret Mahoney for his hard work and dedication to the POS cause (Proof of Santa). For a more complete explanation of the Science of Santa, visit ScienceofSanta.com.