Ah, Christmas time. It's the time of year when we make some of our best memories. For my own childhood, I can remember staying up late on Christmas Eve anxiously tracking the progress of Santa's sleigh on my iPhone Google Maps app. Oh wait, that wasn't me. We didn't have any of that stuff when I was a kid. Back in my day Macintosh was a weird, crappy computer with a small green screen, a google was an unfathomable number and an app was something you could order at a restaurant. However, we did have maps, but they were far from real time and it would've required a lot of math to figure out the exact destinations and speed of Ol' St. Nick. While I had to rely on the method of leaving cookies and milk to trace Santa's whereabouts, the children of today will probably look back fondly on their technology and know with pinpoint accuracy when and where Santa had visited.
If you haven't seen it yet, NORAD and Google have teamed up to provide today's hopeful kids with something more tangible than visions of sugar plums. Now anyone can go to http://www.noradsanta.org and see a map of where Santa has been leaving his much coveted presents. This year he started in Australia and his working his way up through Japan, China, and Russia. Rather than tracking the usual rogue ballistic missiles, during the last few Yuletides, this North American joint military agency has turned its focus on peace and good will towards men. Instead of explosions and spy satellites, NORAD's Santa tracker shows us a map full of neatly wrapped presents and snow sparkles following in the wake of a 3D rendered Santa, sleigh, and reindeer. You can even click on each present icon to see a picture of the locale. Even more Christmas 2.0, some of Kris Kringle's destinations have a related YouTube video; the video from Fuji, Japan clocks his speed at roughly 100 times faster than the bullet train in that city.
A quick study of Christmas' history will lead to many interesting things from alleged roots in the pagan feast of Saturnalia, and druid tree worship, to Puritan bans on the holiday, and its subsequent literary revivals with the help of Dickens, Irving and some of our other best authors. But in this modern age, the grown ups half a century from now will surely look back and remember the latter half of this century's first decade as a remarkable time when Santa went hi-tech. Who knows what other apps and technological developments will meet with Father Christmas in the years to come? Will we have holographic conference calls with the elves in his workshop? Perhaps instead of Christmas magic, his flying sleigh will be powered using the excess heat from all the computer servers he has to keep on board just to keep up with the digital age. Or maybe as population and traffic continues to grow travel, will become impossible and our Christmas gatherings will take place in some virtual online world where we can have a 3D CGI Santa all to ourselves.
Before I go and celebrate a much more traditional Christmas Eve than the versions mentioned above, I will leave readers with one more Christmas memory of mine that marks my first premonitions of the coming of a more technological holiday season.
As a kid, my parents always took my brothers and I to spend Christmas Eve at our grandparents' house. However, one year we became very concerned that Santa would miss our house because no one would be home on that special night. Leaving the cookies and carrots for Mr. Claus and his reindeer just wasn't going to be enough to appease our troubled, present-crazed brains, so one day my dad came home from the office with a reassurance so hi-tech, that it could be nothing other than authentic. It was a faxed letter from Santa, signed in St. Nick's own scribbled hand, promising that he would definitely come down both the chimneys at our house and at our grandparents'. Our suspicions were allayed! Of course Santa had a fax machine and of course my dad knew his number! And even better, we'd have two bounties of presents under two trees that holiday. The carols rang in our heads a little differently that year, "On the first fax of Christmas my true love gave to me ... "
It is getting to be that time of year when tracking Santa will be on the top of the list. Technology is making Christmas better in many ways, but I think this NORAD site is the best of them all. There are many things to do before the big day, so check it out a few days early with the kids.