If your internet connection is running slower than normal it’s probably the fault of one man: Santa Claus. With so much of normal life disrupted and with social distancing now a part of everyday life, Santa Claus has been unable to make his annual appearances in department stores, Christmas fairs and other seasonal events. As a consequence, he has taken to the internet.
Not wanting to let the children of the world down this Christmas, Santa Claus has made himself available online. Parents and guardians can now submit pictures and information of their young loved ones to several sites working with Santa.
Santa’s elves process the information and photographs supplied. The websites take a few minutes to create the video message from Santa that can then be sent by email or posted on Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp.
When the child logs on to one of Santa’s sites, the great man addressses them by name and tells them whether his elves have decided they have been naughty or nice throughout the year.
Not surprisingly, Covid-19 has seen a rise in the number of online Santa services. A search for “online Santa” on the internet throws up a wide selection.
One such site is Montreal-based PortableNorthPole.com has been hosting Santa every year since 2008. It has made more than 200 million video messages. Each year, there are new videos to keep the story fresh. Many of the children will return every December to hear from Santa.
As someone with six grandsons and two grand-nephews ranging in age from two to nine, I have been a user of this site since 2015. The online greetings have delighted my young relatives as well as their parents.
I paid £29 three years ago for the Unltimate Magic Pass, which allows me unlimited messages until 1 October 2028, when I suspect I may not need the service. It also includes birthday greetings all year round from Santa.
Social distancing has seen parents flock to see Santa online coupled with the fact that he has decided not to appear in public at this troubled time.
“Portable North Pole brings Santa to you in the comfort of your own homes, without having to face the madness of the malls,” says Parenting Magazine.
Confining himself to the internet has met with approval from many safety-conscious parents.
Mother of two Nina Callard from Thanet in Kent, an area of with one of the highest Covid rates in the country, says: “I am delighted Santa has taken this decision to make himself available online. There is no way I would take my sons Arlo (4) and Inigo (2) to a department store, Christmas fair or anywhere where there is a crowd.
“And I certainly wouldn’t let them sit on Santa’s knee. With all the travel he does, he could be a super-spreader.”
Covid-19 has seen several online services spring up with a varying amount of features with several scenarios from which to choose.
santatheexperience.com promises a look behind the scenes at Santa’s toy factory, a chance to see the reindeers in their stable and to meet Mrs Claus. (If he is also known as Father Christmas is his wife Mary Christmas?)
The experience takes about 12 minutes and includes an elf-guided trip to the North Pole with a five-minute personal live video chat with Santa himself. Prices start at £34.95 depending on the time of day.
At less than half the price Dublin-based meetsantaonline.com offers a live chat with Santa the abilty to record the live experience on a laptop or PC and to join from two households at the same time. And in Ireland and the UK there’s a gift for every child.
This site also offers the facility for your dog to have a chat with Santa and receive a special doggie gift.
Both meetsantaonline and portablenorthpole donate a small percentage of their charges to local hospitals.
Another website is themerryelf.com also allows children to speak with Santa Claus directly from his workshop in the North Pole. The call can be recorded and grandparents, aunties, uncles and friends to join the call at no extra cost. The flat family rate is £36.
Santahq.app is a London-based service from entertainment production company Ministry of Fun. It offers a live video call with Santa for £30. But for those on a tighter budget a tenner will get a personalised recorded video message from Santa.
The services vary in quality as do the Santas. PortableNorthPole’s Santa has such a full beard that his mouth is hidden and he speaks through his whispers. This allows him to say names and personal details without allowing lip-reading. Other Santas whose lips can be seen only speak when their backs are turned or their mouths cannot be seen easily or clearly.
In earlier years the pronunciation of some of the less common names caused Santa problems. My grandson Thayer’s name eluded Santa two years ago but this year he mastered it. (Obviously he spends the rest of the year upping his game.)
Santa may have embraced the internet to interact with children but he wants to reassure them that as he travels on his own in his sleigh and reindeers don’t catch Covid-19, he will be safe visiting their homes when they are asleep as usual.